Some records defy any attempt at myth-making. You can push them and pull them, you can threaten and cajole them, but no matter the amount of pressure to which they are subjected, they stubbornly refuse to be anything but themselves. Thus it is with Today, the 1988 debut of rock’s dreamy semi-obscurities, Galaxie 500. So confident, so accomplished and affecting were the trio’s subsequent studio albums, 1989’s On Fire and their 1990 swansong This Is Our Music, that there is an overwhelming urge to see something in Today that isn’t there. Surely it is a lost classic, an unpolished gem, lost in a sea of public indifference, like the masterworks of so many alternative rock bands (an awful term) of the mid to late ‘80s? Or perhaps it is a flawed masterpiece, brought down by band tension/unsympathetic production/financial constraints? It isn’t, and it doesn’t need to be.

Opener ‘Flowers’ sets the template that is to be broadly followed throughout record’s nine slow to mid-tempo (‘Parking Lot’ nudges up-tempo) songs; Dean Wareham (guitar/vocals) enters with his chiming rhythm guitar, percussive yet warm, soon to be joined by Naomi Yang’s hypnotic upper register bass and the simple, tasteful and very effective drumming of Damon Krukowski, whose cymbal work in particular stands out. Following a couple of verses and choruses during which breathy (though by no means sensual) vocal overdubs flitter around the stereo spectrum, we are treated to the first, and finest, of the record’s many soaring, elegantly distorted guitar solos, as the overdubbed rhythm guitar parts multiply in the background. Though by no means virtuosos, their instrumental work is consistently nuanced and engaging, if somewhat dominated by multi-tracked guitars.

The eight songs that follow largely represent variations on this theme, applying this instrumental talent to a collection of broadly major key melodies, structurally and harmonically simple, often stretching out in extended instrumental passages, or experimenting with vocal or instrumental overdubs. Though the individual cuts tend to flow into one another to a large degree, a few do stand out, if only for some particular quirk or another. ‘Pictures’, the second number, has a lovely guitar intro reminiscent of the Velvet Underground at their prettiest, and of Today’s softer cuts best embodies the latter day Velvets’ sense of bruised hopefulness. ‘Parking Lot’ has its clattering drums and perky melody, ‘It’s Getting Late’ features subtle synthesised string accompaniment and ‘Temperature’s Rising’ keeps the guitar army at bay for a moment in order to appreciate Yang’s soothing and melodic bass as it interacts with Wareham’s velvety strum. The most ambitious experiment, and the one that doesn’t quite fit with the record’s prevailing mood, is the take on ‘70s rock band The Modern Lover’s ‘Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste’. It’s not so much the song as the surroundings; the tense, droning harmonies and downright depressing – as opposed to simply depressed – lyrics just don’t fit.

Having skirted the issue thus far, it is time to address Today’s problems. They are, put simply; the singing, the songwriting and the mixing. No, it’s not as catastrophic as it sounds; none of these areas represents a critical flaw rendering the album unlistenable, nor are any of them even outright bad. Instead the problem lies more in a sense that the band just needed a bit more time to figure out what worked and what didn’t. More time would certainly have helped the mix which, excluding the guitars and reverb, feels somewhat unbalanced, even for an indie debut. The occasional inaudibility of the bass or harshness of the drums detracts from the superb interplay of instruments within the ensemble, while the mix sometimes doesn’t quite cater for the idiosyncratic vocal. Though the appeal of Wareham’s voice never lay in strength or accuracy of pitch, on Today he hasn’t quite perfected the plaintive whine of later years, instead sounding as if suffering from a stubborn head cold. This in turn highlights the unmemorable nature of many of the vocal melodies, arguably the weakest element of the otherwise capable, if somewhat simplistic, songwriting.

This is not to say that Today is not a distinctive and enjoyable debut. While their signature reverb laden style hadn’t quite fully formed on their first of three studio albums, it is already a significant presence here, smoothing over the sometimes uneven songwriting and providing the record with a much needed cohesion. Even as the weaker cuts stumble on somewhat unmemorable melodies or unnecessary repetition, there is a quiet pleasure just in hearing them play. They rock without rocking, shunning the jarring loud/ear-bleedingly-loud transition that most rock bands and audiences confuse for dynamics in favour of a sustained escalation; two minutes of crescendo masquerading as directionless jamming – though the record has its share of the latter. It is hard to convey just how, but Today is both loud and soft, intimate yet distant, muted yet lush. Even the guitar distortion sounds polite.

Today is not a life-changing record. There are enough of those around, or at least enough people who are given to proclaiming that a record changed their life. Today is a record that shows up every day, sits on your shelf or in your hard-drive, and waits. It waits for the moment when, eyes skimming across the massed ranks of favourite records played and played ad infinitum, you stop at Galaxie 500’s Today – not a bad little record, when you get down to it – and give it a play. And you enjoy it. Sometimes you want emotions and explosions and tension and joy and a record to change your life, and that’s fine, but sometimes you just want a record that’s there when you need it.