Read my reviews of albums by Galaxie 500:
1988: Today (8?/10)
I don’t really know the history of dream pop, but from what little I know of it I’m willing to guess this is a fairly seminal record.
My issue, such as it is, is that I know a later band with one of these people and Galaxie 500 sound like a fuzzier, jammier version of that band. So there’s a huge sense of deja vu with me, one that I absolutely could not have felt if I had heard this record in 1988.
Trying to put that aside, this band sounds like a lot of later dream pop bands so it’s safe to assume this is pretty important for the genre.
The songs are relatively simplistic and the lyrics…well, they’re not quite naive but they are delivered with a voice that could be mistaken for naive. Wareham’s voice is at times almost childish, which makes his lyrics seem less adult than they truly are.
Though the songs are simplistic, the aesthetic (which is the draw, obviously) is mostly repetitive, distorted guitars, with that characteristic “dreamy” fuzz (though not on all tracks). In fact, if I knew more about the genre, I might claim that this band invented the “dreamy” guitar sound. (I honestly have no idea if they did. And I suspect someone beat them to it, just don’t know who.)
This isn’t exactly my kind of music – lo fi pop is never really my kind of music – but I can appreciate it and not just because of its presumed originality. For one thing, so many of the bands I know of later cleaned up the aesthetic more. (I’d rather listen to music this poppy if there’s other things going on.)
Anyway, I don’t know where it sits in the history of dream pop, but in addition to assuming it’s seminal, it’s hard not to like it for what it is.
1989: On Fire (7/10)
Having heard Luna a bunch before this band, I found their debut, Today, a bit of a deja vu experience (with a lot more grime and feedback) but I tried to put that aside due to when that album was recorded. Listening to this roughly a year later, I still don’t know enough about the history of dream pop, but I still assume their debut was a big deal. (I don’t know how many other bands did this slow, rough pop with guitar feedback thing.)
But the feeling of deja vu is strong on this record, not just because Wareham sounds like a rougher version of Wareham, but because this sure does sound like the debut, to my memory. Yes, there’s a saxophone on a track, but the palette hasn’t exactly expanded. These guys do what they do.
And they do that well. The songs have strong melodies and Wareham’s voice, though rough, has that endearing quality so many of these indie singers had at the time – is it embarrassment? Moreover, when he solos, Wareham does the feedback thing well enough. Yeah, he’s no Mascis, but he’s good enough for his band. (To the extent that I know Luna, I know he has mostly abandoned this style on record, and that seems a shame.) It’s his solos that give the album the little edge that it has, and there are a fair number of them, which is appealing to me.
But I can’t shake the felling that this is just Today 2. And though it is well executed, I find that disappointing. (I know, I know, one track has saxophones. That is very different of them. But it’s one track.) I generally like bands which evolve and I have a harder time with bands that just do a thing. (Unless I really, really like that thing.) So I’m a little underwhelmed.
1990: This is Our Music (???)
I have yet to hear the final Galaxie 500 album. Read my reviews of 1990 albums.