Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Galaxie 500 - Tugboat

(Aurora, 1988)

Given how much I like everything they released, it would be nice if I had something grand and profound to say about Galaxie 500… but I don’t. And that might not be so unfortunate, because, shucks, the band itself was rarely grand or profound – it was just consistently pleasant and evocative cold-weather music, right from the rudimentary beginnings. The “Tugboat” single, which comes from the group’s first professional recordings, is a simple, repetitive wisp of dream-pop that kicks up some sleepy guitar-churn by song’s end, sounding like something by less polished, less calculated, East Coast Paisley Undergrounders. Dean Wareham’s voice is much rougher and whinier than the nasal croon he would develop by the time the band broke up, but everything else – especially the heavy reverb and the narcoticized, third-VU-LP guitar playing – is pretty much in place. “King of Spain,” otherwise a demo-quality throwaway, is rescued by an extended solo that meshes perfectly with Damon and Naomi’s primitive-yet-appropriate rhythm section to close things out. A great debut that actually deserves the, ahem, eye-rolling tag “statement of purpose,” given how clearly it lays out what was to come over the next two or so years.

Those with money to burn should note well that the record was originally released with a blue image on the cover and orange image on the back (with 500 blue-vinyl copies, 500 black), and later reissued with the sleeve colors reversed. Both songs – and the “Tugboat” video – are now on the Today CD, which, along with the rest of Galaxie 500’s catalog, will forever remain a swell way to spend both your bread and your heavy-lid sleepytime.

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