You have to think that, sooner or later, Galaxie 500 is gonna jump on this reunion bandwagon thing and cash in big. No, Dean Wareham doesn’t need the money and never has, but he isn’t tied down with Luna anymore, either, and I’m sure if we twisted their arms (but not too hard), Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang, the old rhythm section, could be lured away from their whole recording-as-a-duo/writing-poetry-books gig. If the Pixies can do it, so too can Galaxie 500, whose Velvet Underground-meets-Joy Division-in-a-sea-of-reverb songs sound convincingly like they were recorded yesterday.
Exhibit A is Peel Sessions. At first glance, it’s the textbook example of a for-completists-only footnote with ill-conceived cover art, but upon further examination it’s a perfect summation of everything that was great about this band (with ill-conceived cover art). We get four originals and four covers recorded in two sessions — in October 1990 and September 1989. The record starts out awkwardly with the Galaxies bravely taking on the Sex Pistols’ proto-post-punk (if you will) “Submission.” On paper, the up-tempo cut isn’t really a good match with our heroes’ spare, mannered, Harvard-education-informed approach, but by about halfway through I find myself rooting for them, digging the chunky guitar and our boy Krukowski’s surprisingly tenacious drumming. The sound is pristine.
From the second track on, this is a disarmingly pretty affair. We get Yang struggling charmingly like Moe Tucker through the Young Marble Giants’ quiet “Final Day,” her liquid bass sneaking in beneath Krukowski’s strummed guitar at the two-minute mark. We get Wareham’s pretty, weirdly affecting pre-Luna warble in full blossom on the Kojak-referencing (literally) “When Will You Come Home.” We get a complete, magnificent reinvention of Buffy Sainte Marie’s spooky “Moonshot.”
The last four songs are almost too much. “Flowers,” which first appeared on the band’s debut, 1988’s Today, paints on myriad layers of quiet melancholy, always building. I remember listening to the song in an old apartment of mine in Pittsburgh when I was twenty-two and thinking, This is what it sounds like to be sad now (or something). “Blue Thunder,” from 1990’s On Fire, rolls like drops of rain on a window — I’m thinking of my old apartment in Pittsburgh again. The somewhat weightier “Decomposing Trees” perfectly sets up the closer: the seven-minute, Velvet Underground-meets-Joy Division-in-a-sea-of-reverb epic “Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste.” The song throbs like a beating, broken heart and builds until, like Galaxie 500 itself, the song is greater than the sum of its parts. And then it collapses, and the disc ends, and so does the recorded output of this incredible, criminally overlooked band. Unless they get back together, I mean.
Damon and Naomi streaming audio