Interview: NME 16 September 1989
Americans are loud.
This much we know. They wear loud clothes that would blind a mannequin at ten paces. They talk at excessive volumes in art galleries. They eat noisy hamburgers very noisily. And, by gum, they play terrifyingly loud music - all of them. Even Suzanne Vega.
GALAXIE 500, however, are distinctly undemented deviators from the ear-shattering norm. Far from the fuzzy fury of Mudhoney et al. The Galaxies aren't humping around tons of noise.
Fact is, Dean Wareham (guitar and vocals), Damon (drums) and Naomi (bass) slink towards the listener from the opposite end of the sound spectrum, as their mesmerising new album 'Today' proves. They started playing together "as a gas, not with any serious ideas", in New York two years ago, before moving base to Boston.
Summer '88 witnessed them record an album in three days, the autumn saw its American release, and now, after legal wrangles and distribution problems, 'Today' is finally gnawing a small hole in the British market.
Quite right, too. Subdued psychedelia, reticent rock 'n' roll, call it what you will, but tracks like 'Oblivious' and 'Flowers' are nervous geetar-orientated glides, traditional jaunts where songcrafting is infinitely more important than sonic warfare. True, those abrasive standbys feedback and distortion are present, but they are subtle additions to a fragile framework and never allowed room to antagonise. Throw in Dean's seemingly morose observations, and you might just find yourself listening to lightweight music with a heavy heart.
"I suppose it is gentle," drawls Dean, gently. "Some of it's a little dissonant, too, but it's a nice mix.
"Basically, I take the same old ridiculous themes and try to add a twist on somewhere. I don't consider myself a very serious lyricist."
After flattering but infrequent attention from American fanzines, the surge of closely-timed reviews and inquisitions from this side of the pond have come as a slight culture shock to the singer. Back home, they've already hit the boards with Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore, Beat Happening and Das Damen, and undertaken a two-week tour with mixed results.
"We went to Chicago and after the first song someone threw a beer bottle at me and started calling me faggot'. But he got thrown out of the club. We stand still on stage, not that it's a contrived thing, it's just that the music's really quiet and we'd look pretty ridiculous jumping around."
So they're static on stage and subdued on record. They haven't got long hair, long tongues or destructive tendencies. Are the Galaxies a bunch of wimps, a posse of pop pansies?
"Sometimes we get called naive and romantic," glowers Dean, "but I'm not sure we're any more naive and childlike than anything that comes out on Sub Pop."
Galaxie 500. The stars are shining, right?