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Shoegaze: an oral history (wonderingsound.com)
93 points by Thevet on Feb 17, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments



There's more shoegaze music now then ever before. An excellent place to start is the blog When The Sun Hitshttp://whenthesunhitsblog.blogspot.be/. A good mix of "classic" shoegaze and new bands.

Shoegaze really defined my life. Taking a trip to London for an amazing Lush concert, wandering the streets of London and sleeping on the floor in a train station because I didn't have any money left for even a hostel bed (I did buy some great and rare records though). Or organizing a shoegaze party at a local bar, low attendance of course and ending up being kicked out by the manager because "this isn't music!" What's wrong with Medicine? Good times.


There is also this amazing shoegaze compilation that was just released. Thank goodness it's a free download. There's like 30 bands here from all over the planet https://eartoearrecords.bandcamp.com/album/revolution-the-sh...


I wish I knew how to tag you @yabatopia


How do you mean?


Brings back memories ... hearing Shoegaze for the first time at Amoeba on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley, MBV's Loveless, and it totally blowing my mind. That was the first time I ever asked a store clerk what they were playing.


My jaw kind of dropped when I saw the Lush/Ride ticket stub and realized -- I was at that very show!


Something must be wrong with me, because both Slowdive (shoegaze) and Uncle Tupelo (opposite of shoegaze) say Dinosaur Jr. was a key influence, and I have in my life never been able to pick up a Dinosaur Jr. influence in anything. I think I have a Dinosaur Jr. Appreciation Deficiency.


A few reasons:

1. Everybody knows J. If you were involved in hardcore or underground metal in the 80s, you knew J. It didn’t hurt that J sweats coolness.

2. Likewise, everybody knows Lou. And most people LOVE Lou. Hell, I hung out with Lou when I was 16 and it was incredible (http://nmh.livejournal.com/3336.html).

3. J’s guitar playing broke punk. While he was a super competent guitarist in era of less than competent guitarists, he still used the shitty Jazzmasters everybody else was using. He was an inspiration from a technical perspective.


Amazing guitarist. A friend (J's greatest fan incidentally) managed to convince him to do a guest solo on one of his albums a few years ago. Pretty amazing thing to strike off your bucket list!

I've never heard of anyone calling a jazzmaster shitty before though ;) Amazing, beautiful machines.


Even though they're stylistically pretty different, there are some similarities to Dinosaur Jr. in Uncle Tupelo's earlier more rock-centric stuff. Obviously they never did the J Mascis-style shredding, but some of the other elements are there. I would have never made this connection without your comment though.

Now I have to check out Slowdive...


For sure. Dinosaur's fingerprints are all over Graveyard Shift.


What's the Dinosaur song closest to Graveyard Shift? I can play that Tupelo song from start to finish in my head, but there's not a single Dinosaur Jr song I can do that with. And I've tried!


I don't have the skill to play any song from start to finish in my head, and I don't know about "closest", but "Does It Float" and "Repulsion" on "Dinosaur" are some specific examples you could look at that have some similarities IMO.


Even if you have no interest in this type of music, I strongly recommend checking out the documentary "Upside Down: The Creation Records Story" ( http://www.upsidedownthemovie.com/ , also available on Netflix). There are parallels between the music industry and the tech startup scene, and the Creation Records story has lessons about everything -- strong founder personalities, dealmaking, marketing, managing costs, company culture, etc.

If you do have an interest in this type of music, or want to learn more, buy/download/listen to Swervedriver's Mezcal Head right now ...


I'm surprised that (The) Catherine Wheel didn't make this article. How do they fit into the shoegaze puzzle?

Being my first and favorite shoegaze band, I discovered Slowdive, Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and others through The Catherine Wheel.


Yeah I was also surprised Catherine Wheel didn't make this article. I consider their album Adam & Eve to be the pinnacle of shoegaze. Ferment and Chrome are also prime examples of the movement. Maybe they weren't included because they were a bit harder to interview? From what Rob has said recently, I would be surprised if they have a reunion tour. They seem to have mostly moved on to other things.


They weren't really part of "the scene", maybe because they hailed from Great Yarmouth, which (without wanting to offend anybody) is not exactly the hippest part of the UK. Also I think they appeared a bit later (could be wrong about that).


Short lived? What a wierd opening considering shoegaze is still going strong. For example, My Bloody Valentine finally released their long overdue follow up to Loveless to critical acclaim in 2013.


I don't think its that much of a stretch to say that. There was a huge backlash to the shoegaze aesthetic, shoegaze records stopped charting and the original bands broke up or made disastrous attempts to adapt to the new trends (cough Ride's last two albums cough).

As far as the Thames Valley scene was concerned it was DEAD in 1993. The Swirlies were doing a shoegaze-type sound over in Boston and you had Curve still retaining some shoegaze sounds up until 2001 but otherwise no one was selling any shoegaze records after 1993.

Also it should be noted that only ONE of the songs on mbv was recorded in 2012 and the rest were somewhere between 5-20 years old. So its not really new shoegaze.

Finally if anyone liked this article check out music critic Chris Ott's series Shallow Rewards on youtube. He devotes two episodes to shoegaze and although they're a bit obtuse and pretentious there's lot of great info in them.


> no one was selling any shoegaze records after 1993

So many labels are cranking out the shoegaze right now. Captured Tracks, Slumberland, even Sacred Bones has a few shoegazy bands...


Was it really acclaimed? I thought both the album and the tour that preceded it (I saw them in Chicago) got panned. The new album certainly wasn't in the same league as Loveless.

Hrm, Pitchfork gave mbv a 9.1. Maybe I'm misremembering, or maybe I have DeRogatis poisoning.


Shoegaze is still going strong in the same way that Mozart is still going strong, despite dying aged 35 in 1791.

At least in the UK, the scene described in the article was fairly obscure even in its heyday, and by the mid-'90s it was remembered mostly as a slightly embarrassing pre-Britpop phase. Having watched it come and go the first time around, its post millennial resuscitation feels pretty weird.


I only got into Slowdive a year or two ago so I can't think of it in terms of scenes or who drank at which pub in 1993. But without that context I think they made one good and one great record -- objectively so, as much as one can say that about music -- and I don't see why there's anything weird about still listening to them, or discovering them if you weren't there at the time.


> I don't see why there's anything weird about still listening to them

No, please listen to them. I should listen to more of them myself. I loved Morningrise, but never heard much of Slowdive's other stuff simply because getting hold of music was expensive and difficult at the time.

> or discovering them if you weren't there at the time.

That's the bit that feels weird. A couple of decades ago they seemed destined for oblivion. Watching Lost in Translation with no advance warning was a very odd experience.


Obscure? Maybe if you were only into mainstream pop (there was still a much bigger gap between "commercial" and "alternative" back then than there is today, and there wasn't the easy access of the internet), but some of those bands where pretty big.


They were big for indie bands. They were obscure compared to actually big bands like U2 or Dire Straits. Their names would be met with blank stares in most milieux. See the comment elsewhere about "organizing a shoegaze party at a local bar, low attendance of course and ending up being kicked out by the manager because "this isn't music!"."


Shoegaze has also wormed its way into strange places. See, for example, the unexpected smash success of Deafheaven's Sunbather, a year ago.


It has also influenced a lot of other genres. I'm not a huge fan of the original bands but I like the extreme metal bands like Alcest, Dernier Martyr etc who were influenced by the period. Even stuff like Ihsahn's 'After' record, which was pretty successful has some influence in the clean guitar sound.


The weird thing about Alcest is that he swore blind he'd never listened to any shoegaze until people started making the comparisons. But there's similarities with black metal, in that the harsh tremolo-picked guitar sounds of the latter tend to suppress the rhythmic definition of playing, so the distance between that and wall-of-guitar shoegaze or even dark ambient music isn't so huge, unlike it would be with death or thrash metal.

Also worth mentioning would be Jesu. Some of that stuff makes me cry like a child.

EDIT: clarity


I've been really into the black metal/shoegaze sound lately. Since you like Alcest, I highly recommend checking out "Neon" by Lantlôs if you haven't already since it is also the work of Neige.


Yeah, see my Pitchshifter link above. There's a lot in common with both genres going for a kind of sensory washover.


I'm so happy to see this posted here ... it's not the usual kind of story I see on HN. Slowdive is one of my favorite bands and remains in heavy rotation on my ipod to this day. There were rumors a few months ago that they might be getting back together for a tour. Although I enjoy Neil Halstead's solo releases and Rachel's solo release, I'd love to see a new Slowdive album.


They did.[0]

My favourite album of theirs is Pygmalion, though, which is much more like Talk Talk's late stuff or something like that. I'm guessing they're sticking to the Souvlaki era stuff now, for top nostalgia-reunion value. Good band, still.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slowdive#Reunion:_2014-present


Agreed. Pygmalion was/is an incredible record.


Chapterhouse - Pearl never left my playlist since it dropped... back when second-hand CD shops had staff willing to frindly-sell you on 3 other things you might like when they looked over what you were checking out at the register. The OG "You might also be interested in..."

But who sampled Shoolly D - P.S.K. What does it mean? first in 1991? Chapterhouse or Souxie and The Banshees?


> But who sampled Shoolly D - P.S.K. What does it mean? first in 1991? Chapterhouse or Souxie and The Banshees?

PIL used it on The Body back in 1987...


Did they maybe use it in a remix or something? The album version does not seem to contain it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nr94K5VX0Q4

Although the drum beat is somewhat similar.


Yeah, you're right: looks like it was this remix, which appears to have came out in 1988: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPR3Q4dkcLk


And that sir or madam is a damn fine album.


PSK is everywhere, once you hear it. It's weird how that song gets around.


Indeed it is- Its interesting how heavily sampled it is and the beat is pretty easily recreated. Its a TR-909 crash and hi hats drenched in bad reverb. I guess in those days it was cheap to sample a record though so why not.


Not just the (totally indelible) beat, though, but also the vocal delivery. Just to name one example, it's the hook in Nicki Minaj's "Beez In The Trap".


Swervedriver are actually working on a new record, "I Wasn't Born to Lose You", and have put out a few songs from it (more "Mezcal Head" than "99th Dream", IMO):

"Setting Sun", "Days": http://open.spotify.com/album/0C0q7niaA3GxJpVQsWiiKz

"Autodidact": https://soundcloud.com/blackandblueam/autodidact

Sorry for the shameless plug, but: I play in a shoegaze-influenced dream pop band called Weed Hounds, and we recently put out our first LP, for anyone who's interested (think Pale Saints, Swirlies): http://open.spotify.com/album/0aABjwPh5l2UOM5yWWON11


There is also this amazing shoegaze compilation that was just released. Thank goodness it's a free download. There's like 30 bands here from all over the planet and even Creation Records guru Joe Foster and a bunch of other first-wave gazers (from Swervedriver, Swallow, The Telescopes and Slowdive) have been supporting it. Now that is EPIC! https://eartoearrecords.bandcamp.com/album/revolution-the-sh...


[deleted]


Shoegaze is incredibly easy to make and incredibly hard to make well. I'm not surprised to hear that bands are stringing up a couple reverb/delay pedals and then trying to get some of that 90s no$talgia cachet.

I think that's why Mark Gardener comes off like such a prick in this article: Ride were really on another level technically and in their songwriting and then all these crappy knock-offs came along and watered down the genre until it was a joke. Seriously Ride's live shows were so tight. These guys could really play their instruments.


I remember 1991 and shoegazer very well. I was a metal fan into Ride's Going Blank Again and Spacemen 3.

It's a shame than stuff from the metal world like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fegt-bD3q_k didn't cross-pollinate and make a super-popular strain.


It's interesting that the noun 'shoegaze' is dominant now. As a teen, I followed the scene closely through Melody Maker and a fairly active discussion group on Prodigy (!), and as I recall, the term 'shoegazing' was preferred then. A Cmd-F through the article would appear to reinforce that recollection.




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