Wrestling down the ferocious wall of sound and creativity that exploded on this sceptred isle in the early nineties and belittling it as ‘shoegazing’ was not the music press’ finest hour. What the hell were they thinking? Looking back now it’s utterly cringeworthy that a ‘scene’ that amounted to a media in-joke was forged to the detriment – even derision – of such majestic and diverse talents as My Bloody Valentine and Ride and evidently the need to replace ‘Madchester’ with something – anything – was greater than the sum of our sanity. Journalists from way back then should, aptly, look to their feet in shame.
With hindsight it is very clear that the era in question spawned a lush crop of fantastic bands that produced soaring, distorted brilliance. Labels such as the iconic 4AD and talents as sublime as The Jesus and Mary Chain and Swervedriver along with dream-pop pioneers The Cocteau Twins were sonic innovators who thrashed away at the banal state of music in the 1980s with a swirling layered euphoria of guitars. Oh and the songs were frickin’ brilliant too.
This was music without borders; intelligent, invigorating and arguably the most influential shift from the mainstream since John, Paul, George and Ringo decided to drop the skiffle.
So to reduce all this to a sideswipe suggesting that the bands in question stared down at their effects pedals rather than the audience seems in hindsight to be a little petty to say the least.
Time though is a great healer. It also has the ability to reclaim.
Though you’d still be brave to say the S word in front of the Reid brothers many of the protagonists are reluctantly warming to the term with Jimmy Hartridge from Swervedriver telling the Cutter last year, “Around that early nineties time there were a lot of bands lumped in together. It used to annoy us but now we have conversations and actually use that word ourselves which makes me feel kind of dirty because it was invented as an offensive tag. There are now shoegaze clubs in America. They’re proud of it.”
So should we be and immensely so. Shoegazing, the Scene That Celebrated Itself, or the corporate Alternative Rock: whatever you wish to call the explosion of dreamscaped noise that emerged from Oxford to Glasgow when kids got bored of pretending to be Mancunian around the early nineties should be cherished as one of Britain’s finest and coolest exports. It blew America’s mind and mutated to grunge which they then sold back to us as plaid shirts and soulful eyes.
Last year’s documentary Beautiful Noise began a long overdue revisionism of the songs, bands and ethereal aceness that Shoegazing spawned. And now brilliantly there is a lavish box-set due for release through Cherry Red Records at the end of this month.
In truth ‘box-set’ doesn’t do it justice. This is a sprawling and comprehensive 5-disc narrative packed with swarming codas and scorching tunes that chronologically guides us through the compelling story of Shoegazing. From its early influencers to the chart-straddling giants that followed this is less a greatest hits package and more a complete tale. And it’s a tale well worth listening to.
Any album that contains such gems as Pale Saints’ Sight Of You and Ten Little Girls by Curve is just fine by us and with other Cutter favourites Mercury Rev and Kitchens Of Distinction included among the 87 songs we’re suitably excited.
There is also 12,000 words of sleeve-notes from journalist Neil Taylor and band biographies which means bags of curios for the initiated and an education for those new to the party.
The Cutter doesn’t often preview or publicize the release of new material. But some things are just worth it.
The scene that celebrates itself is finally getting the celebration it deserves. Praise the lord of reverb for that.
Still In A Dream: A Stry Of Shoegaze 1988 – 95 is released by Cherry Red Records on January 29th.
1. The Jesus & Mary Chain – Rollercoaster
2. The Cocteau Twins – Cherry-Coloured Funk
3. The House Of Love – Christine
4. A.R. Kane – Baby Milk Snatcher (12” Version)
5. Ultra Vivid Scene – Mercy Seat (12” Version)
6. Spacemen 3 – Hypnotized
7. Loop – Arc-lite (sonar)
8. 14 Iced Bears – Surfacer
9. Galaxie 500 – Tugboat
10. The Prayers – Puppet Clouds
11. Kitchens Of Distinction – The 3rd Time We Opened The Capsule
12. A.C. Marias – One Of Our Girls Has Gone Missing
13. The Telescopes – Precious Little
14. Pale Saints – Sight Of You
15. Jane From Occupied Europe – Ocean Run Dry
16. Sonic Boom – Angel
1. Ride – Drive Blind
2. Lush – De-luxe
3. See See Rider – Slip So Slow
4. Nightblooms – Crystal Eyes
5. The Darkside – Waiting For The Angels
6. Velocity Girl – I Don’t Care If You Go
7. Cranes – Inescapable
8. Chapterhouse – Falling Down
9. Whipping Boy – Switchblade Smile
10. The Boo Radleys – Kaleidoscope
11. Swervedriver – Rave Down
12. Slowdive – Slowdive
13. The Charlottes – Liar
14. Dr. Phibes & The House Of Wax Equations – Sugarblast
15. Bleach – Decadence
16. Catherine Wheel – She’s My Friend (wilde Club Version)
17. Blow-up – Somersault Sunrise
18. Bark Psychosis – All Different Things
1. Curve – Ten Little Girls
2. The Dylans – Godlike
3. Th’ Faith Healers – Gorgeous Blue Flower In My Garden
4. The Lilys – February Fourteenth
5. The Honey Smugglers – Good Afternoon
6. Spirea X – Chlorine Dream
7. Moonshake – Gravity
8. Spitfire – Translucent
9. Moose – Suzanne
10. Spiritualized – Run
11. Revolver – Heaven Sent An Angel
12. Lowlife – June Wilson
13. The Ecstasy Of Saint Theresa – Square Wave
14. Black Tambourine – By Tomorrow
15. Whipped Cream – Explosion
16. Smashing Orange – My Deranged Heart
17. The Hinnies – Gong
18. Bang Bang Machine – Geek Love (original 12” Version)
1. The Sunflowers – Closer
2. Drop – Mirrored
3. The Belltower – In Hollow
4. Sweet Jesus – Phonefreak Honey
5. Adorable – Sunshine Smile
6. Sun Dial – I Don’t Mind
7. Swallow – Sugar Your Mind
8. Drop Nineteens – Winona
9. Flaming Lips – Talkin’ ’bout The Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (everyone Wants To Live Forever)
10. Medicine – Aruca
11. Coaltar Of The Deepers – Charming Sister Kiss Me Dead!!
12. The Honey Buzzards – Starhappy
13. Loveliescrushing – Babysbreath
14. Majesty Crush – No. 1 Fan
15. The Swirlies – Park The Car By The Side Of The Road
16. Submarine – Chemical Tester
17. Bailter – Space Shine
18. Spectrum – True Love Will Find You In The End
19. Blind Mr. Jones – Spooky Vibes
1. An April March – Memory
2. Flying Saucer Attack – Soaring High
3. Drugstore – Alive
4. Secret Shine – Loveblind
5. Mercury Rev – Bronx Cheer
6. The Curtain Society – Chelsea
7. Seefeel – Plainsong
8. Spindrift – Surround Sound
9. Rollerskate Skinny – Miss Leader
10. Bardo Pond – Die Easy
11. Alison’s Halo – Dozen
12. Swirl – The Last Unicorn
13. Bowery Electric – Next To Nothing
14. Bethany Curve – Me Voy
15. Astrobrite – Orange Creamsickle
16. Luna – 23 Minutes In Brussels