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Galaxie 500 - On Fire (Rough Trade, 1989)
Galaxie 500 - On Fire (Rough Trade, 1989)

‘On Fire’, the new LP, is altogether a more considered - “slower, more lush, and more live” (Damon) affair than Today, proving conclusively there’s more to GALAXIE 500 than their amps.
‘On Fire’ is released on Rough Trade Records on 16th October 1989.
Press release, 1989

Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Galaxie 500’s masterpiece On Fire - there’s not much more than I can say that hasn’t been said repeatedly on this website over the last 25 years - so, just dig out the LP, or head over to the streaming service of your choice and ride the fiery breeze.

Galaxie 500 Melody Maker review of On Fire
Galaxie 500 Melody Maker review of On Fire

Galaxie 500 haven’t “gone” anywhere since “Today” because there’s nowhere for them to go. They’re all washed up, come to rest at the beautiful composure in defeat. If a Pyrrhic victory means triumph won at such a cost you might as well have lost, then Galaxie 500’s music is the exact opposite; a statement of defeat that resounds like a glorious triumph. Let it bleed.
Simon Reynolds (Melody Maker, 28th October 1989)

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Leave The Planet
Leave The Planet

Now… here’s a thing - I love the whole of On Fire so putting together a post about each of the tracks would be easy… right!?

Nope - Leave The Planet, doesn’t appear to have been performed live (except in Dean’s recent On Fire shows), doesn’t seem to have been picked by bands to cover, and doesn’t seem to have folk on the internet waxing lyrical about it. Which is a shame - it deserves better.

Luckily, what it does have is a band named after it - well, I’ll assume that Leave The Planet are named after the Galaxie 500 song which I think is a fair assumption given that this happened for Record Store Day a few years ago…

Leave The Planet - Strange (Galaxie 500 cover)

You can buy it, and lots more Leave The Planet on their Bandcamp page.

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.

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Unlike Blue Thunder which has been done by everyone, Another Day was, for many years, one of the Galaxie 500 songs that never got an outing. In fact I don’t think it often got an outing while Galaxie 500 were a going concern.

But, this all changed this year.

Firstly at a lovely book event in Walthamstow, London in June Damon & Naomi performed a beautiful version of the song:

Damon & Naomi - Another Day (London, June 2019)

And then a couple of days later Dean played On Fire in full for the first time - and you can’t do that without playing Another Day. He did a couple more On Fire shows over the summer. Here he is performing Another Day in San Francisco in July with Britta on vocals.

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.

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Decomposing Tree

If I’m gonna be completely honest, Decomposing Trees was not my gateway to the Galaxie. Back in the spring of 2011, during my final days at Loyola University Maryland, it was Ceremony that left me dumbstruck on the front stairs of our campus library. Other than smoking countless Camel Crushes, my preferred method of procrastination was scouring the nostalgic best-of lists on Pitchfork. Being that I was born in 1989, it seemed only natural to tackle The Top 100 Albums of the 1980s (2002). And since I really dig the color orange, I found it entirely logical to immerse myself in the world of that tiny square slated at #16.

I obsessed over Galaxie 500’s catalogue – with a concentration in On Fire – for the better part of the next two years. I devoured Dean’s Black Postcards, ordered the two DVD boxset off of Amazon, and briefly considered buying my own Ampeg. September 2012 saw my fandom reach its peak, as I found a pristine copy of the LP at Reykjavík’s Lucky Records and decided to tattoo a lyric from Snowstorm on my thigh only a few hours later. I treasured every facet of the fiery breeze, but by that time, nothing captivated me quite like the sixth track, Decomposing Trees.

My toes can talk
And they’re smiling at me
‘Come down,’ they say
Not afraid anymore

And they talk to me
And they smile at me

I was waiting tables in Sheepshead Bay, completely unsure of what I was going to do with my English degree. My trajectory in life was progressing at the pace of a Galaxie track, as if Damon was leading the charge on tambourine and a few solid thwacks of the snare. I found comfort in Dean’s words; consistently warmed by the welcoming whispers of his altered appendages. Naomi’s bassline – sliding high up the neck into Peter Hook territory – nurtured my soul like few others could. And that sax! How can I possibly highlight the finesse of Ralph Carney’s tenor skills? The trio created a song that is transportive on its own, but Carney truly soothes us into this new dimension of rainfall and rebirth. (Shoutouts to Kramer as well, whose production so perfectly brought every aspect together).

I walked upstream
And I sat in the mud
Life starts again
Watching trees decompose

And they talk to me
And they smile at me

Perfectly placed at the opening of record’s second side, Decomposing Trees helps the listener turn over a new leaf just after turning over the vinyl. The track spoke directly to my 23-year-old self because it mirrored the magical weekends when I would disappear into the woods Upstate and wander. My circle of friends would create our own tales of chemically enhanced strolls through the trees, where we would theorize on life before drinking our weight in cheap beer. I don’t want to make it seem like I’ve figured it all out in the years that have passed, but there was a sense of innocence and naivety back then that I can no longer grasp. In my own experience, Galaxie 500’s music has always served as the aural equivalent of pining for the past. Longing for the days when life was just a little bit easier yet doing so with a curious smile as you look towards the unknown. They are undoubtedly my go-to band in times of transition because they make me feel like I have a place to belong, regardless of what happens.

I discovered On Fire just as I was preparing to leave behind four years in Baltimore, as well as all these friends I knew I’d rarely get to see again. I had no career options ahead – with even less ambition to find any – but I knew I had this trio from Boston via NYC via New Zealand. When my parents were temporarily displaced due to Hurricane Sandy, I spent months listening to Galaxie 500 in my best friend’s basement after his family so graciously took me in as their own. And now, as both myself and the album prepare for our 30th birthday, I listen back with new ears as I find myself sharing my whole heart with someone for the first time ever. My life has truly started again over these last few months and I could not be more thrilled to see where I stand the next time we choose to celebrate the efforts of our favorite trio.

Michael Williams

P.S. I found Andy/A Head Full of Wishes on Instagram, so be sure to follow me at @mjwilliams1023. My band Counterspace are working out our own take on Decomposing Trees, only with 7/8 and 3/4 time signatures, as well as flute in the auxiliary instrument position. If it sounds good enough in performance, we’ll put it to tape and gladly email it to any interested parties. Just reach out! Follow us at @needmorecounterspace or email us.

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.

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Here’s a quick collection of videos from Luna’s current US tour.

Watchin Luna live from 4000 miles away

Paradise, Boston - 1st October

Luna - Double Feature (Paradise, Boston)

Odeum, East Greenwich - 2nd October

Luna - I Want Everything (Odeum, East Greenwich)

Space Ballroom, Hamden - 3rd October

Luna - Season of The Witch (Space Ballroom, Hamden)

Union Transfer, Philadelphia - 4th October

Luna - Most of the Time (Union Transfer, Philadelphia)

9:30 Club, Washington DC - 5th October

Luna - Bonnie and Clyde (9:30 Club, Washington DC)

Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro - 7th October

Luna - Tracy I Love You (Cat's Cradle, Carrboro)

Paste, Atlanta (live stream) - 9th October

Luna - Paste live (Atlanta)

to be continued

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“When Will You Come Home?” was about a night I watched Kojak on TV while waiting for Claudia to come home from a party - this was in the early stages of our relationship, when I was insecure about whether she liked me.
Dean Wareham - Black Postcards (The Penguin Press, 2008)

For research I sat and watched Kojak on my own, on my phone a few weeks back! Watching YouTube all alone, watching Kojak on my phone

… frankly there’s very little I won’t do in the name of AHFoW

Also I did a drawing!

Watching Kojak on my own

When Will You Come Home - Galaxie 500 (dir: Sergio Huidor)

Wasn’t there an animal related controversy about “When Will You Come Home”?

Damon: Sergio gravitated to violent imagery for all the videos, I think in part to undermine the band’s pastoral reputation, but also it’s also always anchored somehow to the lyric. It was a briliant leap. I still can’t watch “When Will You Come Home” without flinching, however.

Dean: There was a bit of controversy. We were asked to re-cut the video because it contained disturbing images of animals that had been used in scientific experiments. But then MTV ran the original version anyway. It was confusing.
Interview with James McNew (DVD booklet, 2004)

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.

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Approcahing Perfection a tribute to DC Berman
Approcahing Perfection a tribute to DC Berman

Dean Wareham has contributed a cover of The Purple Mountains Snow is Falling in Manhattan for a new tribute to David Berman released on the blog Section 26 today.

Berman of Silver Jews and Purple Mountains committed suicide in August and Section 26 were inspired to get this album together at short notice…

The idea came from my friend Baptiste Fick, who taught me two decades ago how to play How To Rent a Room on a guitar. “What if we organized a tribute compilation of David Berman?” As is customary at Section 26, I responded : “Let’s do it. We’ll think about it afterwards.” The musicians we started to contact reacted the same way, with short and direct answers. We often got a modest : “I’m in, buddy!” Sometimes, we’d receive whole testimonies of an encounter, an interaction with David Berman around Jewish mysticism, or teenage memories which obviously struck a chord with Baptiste and me. Even the most legitimate refusals were encouraging.

Snow is Falling in Manhattan was originally released on the Purple Mountains album released earlier this year and Dean’s cover was mixed by Britta Phillips and is available to stream on the Section 26 site.

Just like a composite picture, these covers as a whole have profoundly changed the way we will now listen to David Berman’s songs. The performers have shown us other aspects of the musician, their own aspects, which we hadn’t even thought about. Behind each song, we can hear the voice of the artist covering it. But also, implicitly, that of the poet, reaching us differently.

Approaching Perfection : A Tribute to DC Berman

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Soda Fountain (MSA)

Funny… Took a Coke? Was Dean corrupting my mind? I thought he was talking about Coca-Cola when I first heard the song when I was clean cut teenager. They sell Coca-Cola in drugstores too right?

Nasty… and what are Twinkies? I was originally from the Philippines, and they never sold Twinkies there! When I moved to California, someone told me that Twinkies are made of jet fuel… it made sense that this song was about getting high.

Pretty… It’s hard to ignore Damon’s drumming and the always melodic bassline of Naomi. And that guitar tone. Signature Galaxie 500.

Strange… everytime I’m in a drugstore, I still look for Twinkies… and some Coca-Cola.

(Ryan Marquez - California)

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.

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Galaxie 500 on Snub TV

The Galaxie 500 survey has been held every year since 1995 and fairly consistently more people from the UK vote for Snowstorm as one of their favourite tracks than from other countries. In last years survey for example 50% of voters from the UK voted for Snowstorm as opposed to just 17% of voters from the US.

I’m in the UK and it’s my favourite Galaxie 500 track.

Gordon McIntyre from Ballboy is in Scotland and on one of the ballboy podcasts he said that Snowstorm was his favourite Galaxie 500 track.

For a short period of time in the late 80s and early 90s non-mainstream music had the chance to get on telly - on The Late Show, or Rapido or Snub TV - these were shows on a national terrestrial TV station (BBC 2).

On 26th January 1990 Galaxie 500 appeared on Snub TV - there was a short interview followed by a particularly awesome live clip of them playing Snowstorm.

Now I have no evidence to back this up but I reckon that the UKs love for Snowstorm was born in the early evening of 26th January 1990 on BBC 2.

Galaxie 500 on Snub TV

There’s a nice Guardian blog post about Snub

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.

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I’d guess that Tell Me is probably one of the lesser known tracks from On Fire - I always wonder how hard it must be sequencing an album so the balance and transitions work. I think that is one of the things that makes On Fire so great. It’s not just all killer and no filler but the sequencing is flawless. Tell Me isn’t lost after Blue Thunder but is a gentle come down.

There’s a lovely live version recorded for MTV in the UK back then - with Damon playing second guitar (and not drums obv) - it was released on the Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste DVD.

Galaxie 500 on 120 Minutes

I think I only noticed how truly sad Tell Me is when ballboy’s cover came out in 2003 - I think that’s because it’s drenched in cello - which might be the saddest sounding of the strings family. I’ve written about my love of ballboy’s cover before.

As On Fire approaches it’s 30th birthday I thought I’d post a series of posts of randomness about each of the tracks on the album - some from me and some from other fans.