Review: Melody Maker 7 November 1990

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SOME people have no conception of beauty. They think it lies in a casual glance, a trance, a finely-tuned romance, the rain trickling down your lover's neck as you kiss goodbye, for the final time, "Paris, Texas", lit up and glowing like the world caught fire. But they're wrong.

Beauty is Harriet's voice trembling and tumbling through myriad waterfalls of arpeggios on the six-year-old, wordless, "Turkish Song". It is the relief when Dean's voice cracks/through the suffocating swarthes of guitar on Galaxie 500's version of the ultimate teenage hope-thrown-asunder anthem, "Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste"; or David's acoustic flickering into tumultuous life as The Sundays launch into "Here's Where The Story Ends", a tailor-made opening number, if ever l heard one.

I might as well be hung for a bird as for a feather. Tonight is transcendental. Well, what did you expect? In places it shivers, it quivers, it gasps, it glows, it burns, it breeds, pauses, hic-cups with delight- all those soft, gentle adjectives so deserving of bands who cherish a little noise with their harmony, a little silence while they are tearing the roof off my emotions.

So are Galaxie 500 connected in some way with a laid back, drug-induced psychedelia? Bah! Galaxie 500 are a humming drum which beats out poetry, a bass that plucks perfection, a guitar which flies molten across unfathomable depths. But to describe them so transparently is to beckon ridicule.

"Snowstorm" has a glacial coldness about it, pinioned by the sharp, crystal line elegance of the guitar, bass and strained vocals. The coldness doesn't dissipate this beauty is almost cruel in its perfection. "Flowers" is isolated, adrift on its plateau of pain, "Blue Thunder" crashes and ebbs in waves of distortion and the sweetest clarity. Hence, the red embers of Joy Division's "Ceremony", heralding, as it does, the end of their 30 minute set, comes almost as a relief.

Let me fast-forward to the coda at the end of "My Finest Hour", where Harriet's voice takes complete control and adds a fifth and sixth dimension to a sound previously represented by a paltry four on record. I never realised she could look so... saintly. No, that's not right. There's an aura present, surrounding Harriet, who's almost possessed, beating and clapping the air in time, oblivious.

Here - and on "Skin & Bones", "A Certain Someone", the supremely confident "Can't Be Sure" (of course) - it's as if a soft focus camera has come into play around the band, somewhere, somehow. They melt.

To be fair, The Sundays sometimes plummet to earth. The untitled, new number with its Madonna disco beat and flurried guitars and "Joy" are all pedestrian. Even Harriet herself said afterwards they sounded, "Wooden" but I never knew wood could sound so...lithe.

But when they strip down to the bare (skin and) bones of "Something Wrong", with Paul's meat-eating bass, "I Won", and "I Kicked A Boy" (which David doesn't play acoustic on, strangely) then The Sundays truly transcend their mortal coil and glide, unfettered and make me think of the Banshees' "Spellbound".

The Sundays, and particularly Harriet, are spell-binding. Spellbound, in fact.


On Fire | 30

A 30th anniversary celebration of Galaxie 500's masterpiece

On Fire 30 CD sleeve (design: John Conley)
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