R.Ring, Galaxisok: Albums of Our Time and Outside It

If there’s any truth pounding upon us, it’s that life is fragile, everything is uncertain, we can’t count on anything being there tomorrow. Anything from abrupt, cataclysmic loss to an unanswered message can hit us at any moment. Covid and other diseases, the war in Ukraine, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the extreme storms, and the strange unreality that surrounds us online—all this together makes loss both abstract and intensely personal. Some recent albums take this on without didacticism or dogma. I have talked about Dávid Korándi’s album, one of my favorites so far this year. Two others in this vein of global and personal loss are R.Ring’s War Poems, We Rested and Galaxisok’s Minket ne szeress! (Don’t Love Us!)

R.Ring is the duo project of Kelley Deal (of the Breeders) and Mike Montgomery (of Ampline). I have been listening to Kelley’s music for thirty years. When I first learned of R.Ring and watched their video of their song “Hundred Dollar Heat” (performed at the Texas State Capitol building during SXSW in 2012, I was captivated by the chemistry between them, the glances, the smiles, the sense of friendship, as well as the dreamy song itself. Over the course of many EPs and singles and two full-length albums, they have brought other musicians on board, including Joe Suer on vibraphone, Laura King on drums and Lori Goldston on cello, who play on the new album.

Their music is world-weary, sweet, upfront, and at times downright lovely. R.Ring describes it as “sparse, chaotic, abrasive and lulling, often within the same song”; Sometimes the chaotic and abrasive qualities get too much for me, but I wouldn’t wish them gone. Part of their point, I think, is to make the listener a little uncomfortable.

With War Poems, We Rested, the duo and their fellow musicians have hit something magical, both in the sound and in the searing, large-hearted lyrics that take up addiction and its scars, the craving for ease and relief, the pull toward and away from life, the sweetness and betrayal of sensuality. But there are hidden layers too; the whole album seems to be saying, past the words, look how much there is to be done in the world, look how much we waste, especially in our despair. The final song, “War Poems,” maybe the most beautiful on the album, finds its way into the conscience without words.

And the sound… alternating between bold, resounding rock and dreamy folk, with pauses, resonances, bursts of guitar, intriguing rhythms—for the sound alone, the album calls for many returns.

Galaxisok’s new album, Minket ne szeress! (Don’t Love Us!) surprised me with its brevity, its Everyman-style lyrics, its terrific and subtle sound, and the absence of other qualities that I would associate with Galaxisok. The musicians of Galaxisok are sophisticated and well listened (as well as well read); they draw on influences that many of us have never heard of, from a range of styles and eras (their guitarist, Ákos Günsberger, is also a classical guitarist and composer). To understand a Galaxisok album to the depths, you would have to understand these musical allusions. (Magyar Narancs has a wonderful article about how, on this new album, Galaxisok alludes to 80s pop music without any kind of cheap imitation or nostalgia.) But there’s much to understand, and to come to understand, even if you only know a fraction of their influences.

What surprises me on this album is the persona in the lyrics. On other Galaxisok albums, Benedek Szabó slips in and out of various characters—although they all seem to be him in a way—and tells stories about others too. Here there’s a consistent “I,” and a despondent one. Tongue-tied (yet verbose), bewildered, vaguely desirous, apathetic, astounded, resigned, the speaker of these songs peers at the possible end of the world and can do nothing except say what he feels and sees, if even that. Sometimes a perplexity takes over, as in “Utolsó pillanat” (“Last instant”), one of my favorite songs on the album.

Végre itt a világvége!
Egy fagyit elnyalok,
önfeledten dúdolom
az ismerős dallamot.

Ó, ez nem lehet.
Ó, ki érti ezt?

Ó, ez az utolsó pillanat,
Ó, csak egy másodperc marad,
Ó, ez az utolsó pillanat,
Ó, engedd el magad!

Végre itt a világbéke!
Nem találom a helyem.
Zaklatottan keresem:
valahol itt kell, hogy legyen.
The end of the world is here at last!
I lick an ice cream cone,
obliviously I croon
the familiar melody.

Oh, this can’t be.
Oh, who understands this?

Oh, this is the last instant,
Oh, just a second remains,
Oh, this is the last instant,
Oh, let yourself go!

World peace is here at last!
I can’t find my place.
Vexed, I look for it:
it must be somewhere around here.

The album has temporary relief from the despondency: the brief sensuality of “Tánc” (“Dance”); the brief but relieved return to nature in “Vissza a természetbe!” (“Back to Nature”), another of my favorites on the album, especially for its chords and interplay of instruments; and the rage, albeit helpless, of “Ez a nyár” (“This summer”). But the overall feeling is deliberately bleak and general. Anyone could step into these lyrics and believe them.

I miss the joy, wistfulness, melancholy, playfulness of the earlier Galaxisok song lyrics, but there are reasons why this album is the way it is. The music itself has those qualities and more; it offsets and plays with the lyrics. I will end here with the video of “Ez a nyár,” the first song on the album (released earlier as a single—I have brought it up here before).

After posting this, I added the rest of the lyrics of “Utolsó pillanat” (they can be heard in the song but don’t appear in the lyrics on Bandcamp).

  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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