Galaxie 500 are one of the greatest bands of all time.
Yeah, I just said that.
Standing as one of the highest monuments to the phrase “criminally ignored in their lifetime,” Galaxie 500 perfected the blueprint for absolutely blissed-out hazy love sounds in a mere 3 albums before acrimoniously splitting in 1991. Existing for five years and releasing music for just three, their acknowledged impact on music has grown exponentially in the intervening quarter-century.
Presaging shoegaze with their opioid rhythm section and warm liquid guitar tones, and possessing the unquestioned lineage of anything labeled “slowcore,” they could be unjustly mistaken for Music To Fall Asleep To. That’s a crying shame. Although oftentimes I would be hard pressed to think of a better time than lying in bed all day listening to Galaxie 500 on repeat, this music demands close attention. Allowing oneself to drift off to the narcotic tug is indeed a divine pleasure, but greater rewards await those who sit up, pay attention, and maybe get out in the sunshine while they’re at it. There is a spiritual element to this music that touches everyone who truly absorbs and becomes absorbed by its spare grace.
This is not to imply it is in any way religious, because it is not. This is music to truly uplift and affirm. To warm the soul, soothe frayed nerves, and leave the listener on a higher plane than before he pressed play. These songs have infinitely larger meaning in their feel than in anything so pedestrian as lyrical content. In fact, the lyrics are often vague, dreamlike, and understated; concerned with basic themes of disaffection, longing, ennui, and of course love, the words themselves are not groundbreaking. The heavenly atmosphere is engendered by the perfectly interweaved instrumentation, the egalitarian balance of every element in the mix, and the effortlessly captivating and timeless melodies Dean Wareham, Naomi Yang, and Damon Krukowski captured on record nearly two decades ago. These records can accompany a bicycle ride, day at the beach, even a nap perfectly. It’d be an even larger criminal offense if that’s all they are remembered for. Galaxie 500 carry the mind and soul aloft, to dance with ideals and hopes and dreams far above the day-to-day reality of earth.
Key tracks: Flowers, Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste (godlike Jonathan Richman cover), Tugboat
On Fire, 1989
Key tracks: Blue Thunder, When Will You Come Home (one of my absolute favorite songs of all time, no question), Ceremony (excellent cover of early New Order single, arguably better than the original)
This Is Our Music, 1990
Key tracks: Fourth of July, Summertime, Listen The Snow Is Falling (towering, gorgeous cover of a Yoko Ono track – undeniably, exponentially superior to the original), Way Up High, and the bonus track Here She Comes Now (a thundering, aggressive, majestic cover of the Velvet Underground original. I am a huge VU fan yet still consider this better than the original, again, by a long shot). Also, hopefully you’ll notice the album is named after a certain Ornette Coleman classic, and aptly so.
Please remember, the ‘key tracks’ are to conjure interest. They’re entry-points, if you will. Each of these records are of a piece and meant to be heard as such. Not that you’ll have any trouble letting them spin after hearing the first track (which I’ve included as ‘key’ for each) and being comfortably locked in for the duration.
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So these are the three studio albums released in the lifetime of the band. Dean went on to form the much more successful Luna, and Damon and Naomi formed, well, Damon & Naomi, but no matter how they tried, never eclipsed the sonic glory of this brief engagement. As for the music, no individual description is necessary. I will simply offer that they are one of the most consistent bands to have ever existed. Though constantly evolving and updating their sound, breaking through subtle barriers with each subsequent release, the entire ethos and drive of the music remained rock solid from day one. From the moment you first hear Galaxie 500, these tones will have unrivalled distinction as unique as a fingerprint. Nothing else aproximates the quietly triumphant bliss conjured here.
[purchase Today, On Fire, and This Is Our Music separately at amazon, but keep an eye out at your local independent record shop, as I've found the CDs at entirely reasonable prices. plus you've more chance of finding the Peel Sessions, the Uncollected, and Copenhagen (Live) sets as well]