Song of the day – 43: Galaxie 500
Surely, you had to be expecting this one.
Domino Records have just reissued this still-missed Boston band’s three studio albums, each with a bonus CD of ‘rarities’. Exciting, although I do believe I own ALL these songs already at least four times on various previous reissues and box sets and vinyl originals. Exciting, because this was the band I once hid from in the pool room next to the Powerhouse in Angel Islington rather than come out and meet, because I was way too much in awe of their music, and figured I could only be a disappointment.
(I went on to record a still-unreleased concept album with Damon and Naomi in Boston, and share Dean Wareham’s Manhattan loft floor with his beautiful dog on any number of occasions – but we’re talking separate lives here, a few years later.) (And I should throw in the story about my plane being hit by lightning on the way to Boston here, but it’s been told too many times already. And tracking down old Folkways Recordings with Chris from Buffalo Tom, but…)
I remember Galaxie 500 live concerts in icy-blue colours (as opposed to My Bloody Valentine, who were always a pulsating red) – all foreboding silences and glacial beauty, despite Dean Wareham’s pathos-laden voice. The bass was pure ‘Ceremony’-era Joy Division, of course, and nothing wrong with that. The drums were as responsive as I’d yet to witness in a rock band. The guitar solos increased the feeling of distance, of loneliness. The lyrics… well, I never could quite get my head around their pleasing mundaneness. I always figured they had to be something more (and even to this day remain unconvinced that they’re not).
Yet, for all that, Galaxie 500 remain a strange band. Charlotte remarked yesterday that she wasn’t even sure she liked them anymore, and – while not wishing to go that far at all – I understand what she means. They’re so specific to their time and to certain experiences (doubtless anyone coming to them for the first time now would agree, but with reference to the current year). Their sound is queer. You can hear traces of other bands in their music – specifically from Dean Wareham’s New Zealand heritage, the Flying Nun lot; also in similar NYC art loft bands such as Television (for the guitars), and Joy Division/Young Marble Giants etc (influences Galaxie always wore on their sleeve – witness the cover versions). And sure, you can hear Galaxie
in bands that followed – Songs, for example, being one of the most recent. But Galaxie 500 still seem to exist apart from everything around them.
A few months back, the Archived Music Press blog posted up an old MM singles page of mine, wherein I made ‘Blue Thunder’ single of the week, writing, “Galaxie 500 eclipse every other group of their genre (Spacemen 3, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine et al – those who would choose to suck us in and immerse us in the sheer emotional potency of the guitar) by several thousand eons. That’s how I feel today, anyway.”
There was a cover version on the B-side that I raved over even more than the A-side.
This is it.