For reasons I can’t really fathom, Galaxie 500’s first album Today is usually overlooked in discussion of the band. Writers often point to On Fire as the band’s most cohesive album-length statement and to tracks like “Fourth of July” and “Listen, the Snow is Falling” from This is Our Music as their strongest individual outings. And yes, it is true that Today doesn’t have the “one big haze” feel that comes from a listen through On Fire, but the incredibly strong song writing and truly transcendent guitar heroics from Dean Wareham push the album right to the top of Galaxie 500’s output. Song for song, Today stacks up more than favorably against any debut album I can think of.
The Galaxie 500 sound is one of the more polarizing in indie rock. Along with other slowcore — a name that particularly tickles me — bands like Low, Galaxie 500 pioneered a technique of dropping the tempo to a crawl while still packing in the dynamic shifts any self respecting rock band ought to have. But their music isn’t just about slowing down the tempo, it’s more about using the same tempo for every song and finding new ways to make it exciting for listeners. Galaxie 500’s secret weapon is their bassist, Naomi Yang, who might lose out to Peter Hook in a “melody off,” but just barely. Yang’s bass lines range from simple riffs that propel the songs forward to higher register melody lines that successfully battle Dean Wareham’s guitar for the listeners attention.
But that’s not to say that Wareham’s presence in the band is anything to scoff at. Between his ethereal, high-pitched voice that float above the mix in every song and his absolutely majestic guitar tone and note choices, he proves himself one of the most capable indie frontmen of all time. Throughout the album he is able to switch from simple chord strumming to blistering guitar leads at the drop of the hat, all without losing his place in the slow swing provided by the rest of the band. The layers and layers of melodies on the album are simply amazing, allowing it to stand as one of the lushest works of art three people could possibly create.