Saturday, January 16, 2010

Galaxie 500 - "This Is Our Music" (LP Review)

First post of 2010 and time to complete the Galaxie 500 hat trick...

Released in 1990, "This Is Our Music" was Galaxie 500's third and final studio LP. The name of the LP is a nod to the Ornette Coleman LP of the same name. That alone should tell you that the band is simultaneously 1) clever, 2) ambitious and 3) just a bit pretentious. I mostly like the reference, but sometimes it is seems a bit much for a garage rock band.

The short version: "This Is Our Music" is a very good LP, but pales in comparison to their first two LPs, "Today" and "On Fire". I'm not sure if they were running out of ideas, becoming worn down by touring, or perhaps their initial unassuming -- almost timid -- sound was unsustainable.

The LP represents a continuation of direction that was introduced on their second LP, "On Fire". But some of the ideas don't work. For example, the opening track, "Fourth of July", is a good song, but is lyrically awkward. Prior songs found the poetry and beauty of quotidian events, such as this from "Snowstorm" on "On Fire":
Well I listen to the weatherman
He's changed his tone of voice
And he can see it on the radar
Only seven hours away
Well there's gonna be a snowstorm
When the t.v has gone wild
And they got nothing else to think of
And they're letting me go home
"Fourth of July" tries to be too clever for its own good:
I wrote a poem on a dog biscuit
And your dog refused to look at it
So I got drunk and looked at the Empire State Building
It was no bigger than a nickel
I stayed at home on the Fourth of July
And I pulled the shades so I didn't have to see the sky
And I decided to have a Bed In
But I forgot to invite anybody
"Snowstorm" is precious; "Fourth of July" is affected.

Perhaps I'm being too critical... There are no bad songs on this LP, and some are excellent. But more so than the first two LPs some are nondescript, such as "Hearing Voices", "Spook" and "Way Up High".

The excellent songs include bassist Naomi Yang singing the Yoko Ono song "Listen the Snow is Falling", "King of Spain, Pt. 2" and "Melt Away", which is perhaps the best song on the LP. The 1997 Rykodisc reissue includes an outstanding cover of "Here She Comes Now" by the Velvet Underground (originally a B-side to the "Fourth of July" single). Galaxie 500 had always borrowed heavily from the Velvet's aesthetic and this cover just makes it official.

"This Is Our Music" is a strong LP that deserves to be in your collection. And while it would be a remarkable LP by almost any other band, it just doesn't quite live up to the standards set by their first two LPs. Dean Wareham left the band in 1991 after touring and went on to form Luna. Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang would eventually form Damon and Naomi. Both bands would release decent LPs, but neither band would capture the magic of their original band. For those whose are interested, the site "Head Full of Wishes" expertly covers Galaxie 500 and their various post-1991 bands.

The Galaxie 500 discography would be posthumously extended with a live LP, Peel sessions LP, B-Sides LP, etc. But "This Is Our Music" is an appropriate coda for a band that was criminally undiscovered while they were active.

Standout songs: "Fourth of July", "Listen the Snow is Falling", "King of Spain, Pt. 2", "Melt Away", "Here She Comes Now". (Many of the above are live versions; the studio versions can be found on Grooveshark.)

Skip 'em songs: none.

Final score: 8/10.


  1. I enjoyed all the Galaxie 500 reviews - its nice to hear another perspective of albums that are so much a part of me that, to a certain extent, I've lost any objectivity. It helps that you loved them all though!

  2. Thanks Andy. In a perfect world Galaxie 500
    would have made it big like REM or Radiohead.
    At least they gave us 3 amazing LPs.