s soon as the cover of the Sex Pistols’ “Submission” begins, it’s apparent that Galaxie 500’s Peel Sessions manages to capture what makes this seemingly ordinary sounding band so memorable. That a band this languid could take a punk anthem of rage and transform it into their own (and their genre’s) sonic ideal is the mark of sheer excellence. They bury the riffs under delicate interplay between bass and electric guitars to the point where the Pistols’ version (almost) sounds like it could pass as a Galaxie 500 cover.
“Submission” makes it clear why Peel Sessions is being released in November of 2005—additional reminders of what a great rock band sounds like are always worthwhile. These eight songs, culled from two sessions for the John Peel Show in 1989 and 1990, find the band right around their artistic apex, and they managed to do both the covers and their own material justice.
Their version of Buffy Sainte Marie’s “Moonshot” is handled skillfully. Instead of attempting to match Sainte Marie’s unmistakable quiver, singer Dean Wareham delivers the song in a straight-forward manner, as he and his bandmates infuse a palpable hollowness into the music itself to best acclimate their aesthetic to the lyrics’ eerie nature. Other covers include a slowed-down take on the Young Marble Giants’ “Final Day,” and an inspired version of Jonathan Richman’s “Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste.”
Both sessions are delivered with clear quality, enhancing the covers and making the subtle differences with the original versions of the band’s songs easily identifiable. The guitar solo at the end of “Blue Thunder” is spacier than On Fire’s version, for example. In every case, the original songs are performed as carefully as they would be for an official recording; Galaxie 500 sounded as tight as ever.
The only substantial complaint that could be lobbied against Peel Sessions is that it’s simply too scant, leading to legitimate questions of whether or not it’s truly suitable for release and/or purchase. But seeing as how the biggest problem with the eight songs that are included is that they cause one to wish that Galaxie 500 had recorded more songs for Peel, it only serves as testament to the strength of everything found within. For longtime fans, there’s little reason not to buy this. For newcomers, Peel Sessions might not be a logical starting point, but you’ll still walk away understanding why Galaxie 500 are still revered.
Reviewed by: Ross McGowan
Reviewed on: 2005-12-03