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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On Fire, 26 April 2010
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This review is from: On Fire (Audio CD)
If you mention the late eighties to people of an age, you're most likely to hear stories of acid house, raves, The Stone Roses, Madchester and so on. These movements had their charms and undoubtedly paved the way for the mainstreaming of alternative music that followed; a harvest most reaped by perhaps one of the more generic alternative American bands, Nirvana. However, at the same time some of the most interesting and innovative music wasn't coming out of the northwest of England - it was coming out of the east coast of the United States. Galaxie 500, along with Dinosaur Jr and The Pixies, were all making incredible records that, a couple of Pixies singles aside, largely never dented mainstream consciousness.

Galaxie 500 are one capsule from that time that deserves revisiting for their three wonderful albums, each one a perfect and compact collection of songs that stand outside the time, and are still unmatched for simplicity, beauty and otherness. As the critics somewhat sneered at the time, they weren't exactly rock and roll, with their three piece sound stripped down to simple chords, a handful of effects and reverb, and the la-la-las of their choruses. But they all have the knack that the best music provides - a certain kind of transportation and separateness that simply can't be manufactured.

The standout tracks on On Fire are Blue Thunder (never has a song about a car sounded so melancholic and otherworldly), Snowstorm (a song that sounds as simple as it is isolated and distant), When Will You Come Home (a perfect snapshot of a song, which typically isn't undermined by the daftness of its lyrics), and Another Day, one of a handful of songs sung by Naomi. The (almost obligatory) cover of Ceremony on the first disc is also brilliant, sounding somewhere between a mellow Jesus and Mary Chain and the band's normal sound, and I much prefer it to the original.

These albums were reviewed in a major newspaper recently, and it was amusing to see them being lumped in with shoegaze by a reviewer. It seemed to be solely so that the same reviewer who mislabelled them could argue against his own mislabelling, which was all rather unnecessary. In case you're in any doubt, they share certain similarities to shoegaze in the slow pace, guitar-based prettiness and relatively simple, repetitive structures, but really they defy any genre. And while Dean Wareham carried on with Luna, he never matched the beauty of the three Galaxie 500 albums, of which this, the second, has always been my favourite. All three deserve a listen, though, and show a development that it's a shame we couldn't follow further.

My one gripe would be that Ryko are really doing their best to mine the remaining nuggets of Galaxie 500 into dust. These albums have already been reissued and remastered at least once, and I find it difficult to imagine there are many people who followed this band that don't already own all of this in one format or another. The sound quality is clearly improved over my ageing original CD bought at the time, but bundling previously available songs into differently formatted re-issues is a little exploitative. However, the album and the tracks here are a generous proposition if you have stumbled across them for the first time, or if you do want the latest issues with the bonuses collected across the three albums.

Which brings us back to the late 80s, then. Galaxie 500 are from that time, one of the last moments when an alternative band's greatest ambition might be small gigs (maybe even in England!), a minor label deal, and possibly a mention on John Peel, sessions from which are the source of the material for the second disc here.

It's difficult to imagine this band emerging when alternative music had become a major part of the industry, as it was soon to do, but that's the industry's loss. It's not that popularity kills creativity, but that it seems to be a lot harder to do something so idiosyncratic when the expectations and motivations are far more public. But don't mistake me - Galaxie 500 aren't good because they're relatively obscure - they're good because their obscurity allowed them to follow a musical path that no one else followed. While these have all been re-released before, that's no reason not to revisit them now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 20 Dec 2011
By 
Mr. C. Walsh "DubVillain" (Derby, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Fire (Audio CD)
I didn't particularly like guitar music before I listened to this. I'd now say that Galaxie 500 are my favourite band, just beautiful. They have great songs on their other 2 albums aswell. Blue Thunder, Isn't It A Pity, Ceremony, Melt Away, Here She Comes Now, Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste. A few of those songs are covers but all six are amongst the best songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ghostly ethereal psychedelic classic, 3 Sep 2010
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This review is from: On Fire (Audio CD)
Comprising of guitarist Dean Wareham, bassist Naomi Yang and and drummer Damon Krukowski, Galaxie 500 were a band who went against the anthemic trends of their time, which probably goes some way to explaining why their music is more relevant today than many of their contemporaries. Their sound, which was devoted to urban alienation, was anti-theatrical and languid, a kind of reversed expressionism.

The trio's sound is reminiscent of the work of elements of the Velvet Underground, Pink Floyd and Television but they have a distinctive sound all of their own that has filtered out the vitality of these artists. 'On Fire' (1989) is their masterpiece, a personal work that has an existential anesthetic that has echoes of the acid-rock past.

But the sound of the band is ethereal, sleepy, ghostly that touches on the inner language of the subconscious devoid of emotional attachment and moral isolation in an post-industrial landscape. 'On Fire' evokes a passionless community who are only capable of articulating the emptiness of their lives in a vocabulary of negative words.

Galaxie 500 are the only band who are able to invoke the confessions of people who do not even know anymore how to grieve for their own sorrow. These dirges were the exact opposite of the anthemic call to arms of rock'n'roll of over-rated bands like U2 and Coldplay.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars sweet sweet music, 30 Jun 2011
By 
M. C. Johnston "cyril" (boro) - See all my reviews
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This is a great album and if you only like the odd song on it is worth it as the rest will grow on you. If possible see the band live or Dean Wareham live as the band split in 91. amazing!
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 16 May 2010
By 
P. J. Sharp "Hill Top Man" (Marlow) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: On Fire (Audio CD)
Forget My Bloody Valentine, Spaceman 3, The Fall, JMC, Velvet Underground - all amazing bands, but I promise you this will stop you in your tracks. This could have been recorded yesterday - the above (except M.E. Smith all sound just a little dated in comparison).
THere is no Eighties groove - just ON FIRE bliss. You must hear this.
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