The Portable Galaxie 500 is a best of album for a group who would seem to resist such compilations. Galaxie 500 produced music that, while distinctive in comparison to other groups, seems designed to blur together to create a seamless ambient mood rather than standing out as a string of pop hits.
Galaxie’s otherworldly quality comes from an impression of distance in the music, as though the listener were hearing the band bouncing off the stone walls of a subway corridor. The plaintive and slightly dissonant saxophone of Blue Thunder, the album’s opening song, sets a tone of tormented dispassion that pervades the album. The songs project a hazy melancholy, even through such traditionally lighthearted topics as Flowers, Fourth of July, or Summertime, avoiding platitudes to offer the band’s quirky insights. It is in the subtle gradations of these moods that the album excels. Well-crafted rather than monotonous, the songs build on each other to create a complex aural portrait with humor and originality.
It is telling that Galaxie 500 albums are still being released and purchased enthusiastically eight years after the group’s dissolution. Not only has the devotion of longtime Galaxie fans spilled over into support for Krukowski’s and Wareham and Yang’s latest efforts (Luna and Damon and Naomi, respectively), but recent releases such as this hits album or the recent box set of albums and b-sides have attracted new fans to the music that is as ghostly in sound as its group is in body.