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Why There's No Money in My 401(k)
A Diary of Obsessive Materialism (Vol. 1)
 
 
by Kyle Olson

In an effort to fulfill some bizarre need in my life, I purchase a lot of CDs, both old and new. They are obsessively cataloged and organized and poured over track by track (Seriously, it's obsessive. It involves post-it notes and code and excel spreadsheets). It is truly a labor of love (and an unhealthy psychological imperative). But, since I am consuming so much music, I thought I could use this constant influx for the powers of good. Should I come across anything worth sharing (either a new release or an old favorite), I will share them with you. So you'll love me.

Galaxie 500 - Peel Sessions (20/20/20)
The most memorable Peel Sessions, it seems, are the ones where the bands gave the audience something new. For instance, Belle and Sebastian had an oft-bootlegged 2002 edition where they sloppily (and festively) ripped through a host of Christmas songs. It was fun and intimate (though not always terribly great). If bands on the Peel Sessions had a day to cobble together four tracks, the end product often wouldn't be as good as an album recording, but it also wouldn't be a simple live performance. It was something special and singular that was often squandered on the same old tracks available on the bands' albums. There were bands that took the opportunity, however, to bring the BBC audience a unique experience: new songs, new versions, new arrangements. Galaxie 500 seems to have taken the opportunity, during their two appearances, to share their influences by interspersing fantastic covers between the songs the covers helped inspire.

Galaxie 500's "Peel Sessions" begins with a cover of the Sex Pistol's "Submission." Whereas the original was ostensibly a love song, the sneer with which it was delivered gave it a certain violence: the title being both "underwater" in love as well as...well....submission. Shown through the lens of Galaxie 500's hazy twee shoegaze, the song becomes a sixties garage-pop ode to being helpless in love (though to be fair, MOST indie pop songs are about being helpless in love). They immediately follow this love-ified punk anthem with a cover of minimalist post-punkers Young Marble Giants's track "Final Day." This time, they transform the tightly wound original into something that sounds like a forgotten Vashti Bunyan track, seeming to soundtrack an idyllic English country afternoon with its soothing folksy charms.

A handful of original tracks follow, as well as cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie, and it's all unbelievably good. It seems completely remarkable that these songs, recorded by a band that broke up over 15 years ago, don't sound dated in the slightest. Lead singer/guitarist Dean Wareham strums away through these languorous and slow pop tracks, letting the reverb pedal do its work. Manageable levels of feedback create backdrops of narcotic bliss for Dean (and co-vocalist Naomi Yang) to croon over, giving pop kids of the world aural parkas to wrap themselves in. These songs are emotional enough for twee romantics to relate to, and the music has this lovely, comforting quality despite the guitar-drone. Galaxie 500 are like a version of the Velvet Underground that you wouldn't be nervous to introduce to your mom. (Unless your mom is a heroin addict, in which case she'd probably want to be the real thing).

Closing out the set is perhaps the highlight of the album. They've taken the wonderful Jonathan Richman's song "Don't Let Our Youth Go to Waste," and completely made it their own. Transforming the originally a capella track into a guitar-soaked anthem to the youth energy that is at the heart of pop music, Galaxie 500 gives listeners a place to get lost in for it's seven-minute duration. And at the end of that seven minutes, the listener has absolutely no choice but to hit play on the stereo and enjoy all eight songs all over again. With a collection of tracks like this, the chief criticism of the album is that it isn't twice as long. Lord knows people would want to hear it.

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