Monday, December 28, 2009

Galaxie 500 - "On Fire" (LP Review)

As I said on my review of "Today", Galaxie 500 "sounds like college" to me, even though I did not learn of them until nearly 10 years later. If there is ever a movie made of that time of my life, songs like "Blue Thunder" or "Snowstorm" should serve as the soundtrack.

"On Fire", Galaxie 500's second LP, is considered by many to be their finest LP. As I said before, I might give that nod to "Today" because it was first, but one could certainly make an argument for "On Fire". "On Fire" continues the sound and concepts introduced with "Today", but with some small advancements such as expanding their minimalist arrangements with additional instruments on some of the songs, as well as bassist Naomi Yang singing on "Another Day".

I would say the quality of the songs of "On Fire" is a little more variable: the best songs are better than anything on "Today", but there are a few songs that while not bad, are also not quite as magical as the others. Every song on "Today" is a gem, but even though none of the songs on "On Fire" are bad, they're not all gems either.

However, the first five songs of "On Fire" is without a doubt their best five song sequence (that's "side 1" if you're rocking the vinyl):
  1. "Blue Thunder"
  2. "Tell Me"
  3. "Snowstorm"
  4. "Strange"
  5. "When Will You Come Home"
Each is a tour de force, but since "When Will You Come Home" is very similar to "Tugboat" (their first single) thematically and structurally, it deserves special attention:
When, when will you come home?
Watching TV all alone
Watching Kojak on my own
Staring at the wall
And waiting for your call
When, when will you come home?
This is clearly by/for the same person as "Tugboat"...

Past side 1, only "Another Day" and the cover of the George Harrison song "Isn't it a Pity" achieve the same level as the first five, the latter being the closing song on the original release. Fortunately the Rykodisc reissue of "On Fire" includes three excellent bonus songs from the 1990 "Blue Thunder" 12": "Victory Garden", "Ceremony" and "Cold Night". "Cold Night" is a Galaxie 500 original, while the other two are covers: "Victory Garden" is a cover of a Red Krayola song and "Ceremony" is a cover of the Joy Division / New Order song which I have already reviewed.

Standout songs: "Blue Thunder", "Tell Me", "Snowstorm", "Strange", "When Will You Come Home", "Another Day", "Isn't it a Pity", "Ceremony", "Cold Night". (Many of the previous links are live versions; find all the studio LP versions on Grooveshark.)

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 10/10. The original 10 song release would have merited a 9/10, but the three excellent bonus songs push it to a 10/10.

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