Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Galaxie 500's "Today": Music Review

I bought "This Is Our Music," the band's third, after reading an article about its release in the indie magazine "Option." The clerk at the hip music store cautioned me, saying "Today" was much better. I told him about the review of "TIOM," and said I'd start with that and go backwards if I liked Galaxie 500 enough.

The Rykodisc boxed set convinced me that the clerk was correct. "On Fire" is stronger than "TIOM," and "Today" beats album number two. Unlike Dean Wareham's work with Luna, which with the Feelies' drummer and the Chills' bassist, edged towards more indie-pop, the earlier band tended to me more to the Velvet Underground, in mood more than sound. The song "Tugboat" may tip their hand: I read it as alluding to Stew Morrison's decision to work on that craft rather than continue with music after the VU.

You have to be in the right frame of mind for this record to work. Wareham's warbly voice can be as trebly as his guitar. Naomi Yang's bass (who needed more vocal appearances; look to her work with partner-drummer Damon Krukowski after Wareham ditched the pair for his solo career, as the liner notes in the Rykodisc box set sadly document by Damon & Naomi) backs up the guitar and percussion nimbly. Sort of like Kim Deal in the Pixies, she got upstaged instrumentally and vocally by the lead singer.

This album-- just before the CD took over-- fits into a now distant period, even if only two decades ago, when one could learn by a magazine, hear by word of mouth, or tune into a college station to find out about an intriguing band from across the country. There's a warmth to the production by Kramer to match the chilly emotions. The trio's love of simple structures that build up and then unravel in three minutes sinks in, after many playings. It fits a winter's morning or a summer's night.

(Posted to Amazon US today.)

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