2024 – welcome to the/a future(s)


Another year – and the actual name of the year itself gets ever stranger and more unlikely and exotically futuristic, if you grew up in the era when the film 2001: A Space Odyssey was still set in the future. And here’s the annual attempt to get something onto this site at the beginning of the year – just made it in the first week this time – and hopefully, to post more often. The goal is a minimum of once a month but I think goals are better than resolutions so that’s as far as I will go.

2023 was the usual mixed bag of things; I didn’t see any of the big movies of the year yet. I have watched half of Saltburn, which so far makes me think of the early books of Martin Amis, especially Dead Babies (1975) and Success (1978) – partly because I read them again after he died last year. They are both still good/nasty/funny, especially Success, but whereas I find that having no likeable characters in a book is one thing, and doesn’t stop the book from being entertaining, watching unlikeable characters in a film is different – more like spending time with actual unlikeable people, perhaps because – especially in a film like Saltburn – you can only guess at their motivations and inner life. So, the second half of Saltburn remains unwatched – but I liked it enough that I will watch it.

Grayson Perry – The Walthamstow Tapestry (detail)

I didn’t see many exhibitions last year but am very glad that I caught Grayson Perry’s Smash Hits in Edinburgh. I didn’t really plan to see it as assumed in advance I wouldn’t like it, but in fact I loved it and ended up having a new respect for GP that only partly evaporates whenever I see him on TV.

Kristin Hersh by Peter Mellekas

I can’t be bothered going in depth about my favourite music of the year because the year is over and I’ve written about most it elsewhere. Old teenage favourites came back strongly: Kristin Hersh’s superb run of albums continued with Clear Pond Road. I hadn’t thought a lot about Slowdive in years but I really liked Everything is Alive and was very pleased to see them get the kind of acclaim that mostly eluded them when I was buying their first album a million years ago. Teenage Fanclub’s Nothing Lasts Forever and Drop Nineteens’ Hard Light were good too, and The Girl is Crying in her Latte by Sparks was probably my favourite of theirs outside of their early 70s classics. There were some excellent black metal (or black metal-related) albums too; much as I don’t like to think of Immortal without Abbath, Demonaz did himself proud with War Against All. Niklas Kvarforth returned to form with the brilliant Shining and Skálmöld’s Ýdalir is as good as anything they’ve recorded. In less guitar-oriented genres, I loved Kid Koala’s Creatures of the Late Afternoon and the latest Czarface record but my favourite album of the year if I had to choose one was the loveably lo-fi and enigmatic compilation Gespensterland.

I read lots of good books in 2023 – I started keeping a list but forgot about it at some point – but the two that stand out in my memory as my favourites are both non-fiction. Lauren Elkin’s Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art  is completely engrossing and full of exciting ways of really looking at pictures. I wrote at length about Elena Kostyuchenko’s I Love Russia here. Kostyuchenko introduced me to a country that I only knew via history and stereotypes and her book is an exercise in what good journalism should be – informative, interesting, compassionate and readable. Both of these books cut across a wide range of subjects and examine unfamiliar things but also analyse the familiar from unfamiliar points of view; you should read them, if you haven’t already.


It’s no great surprise to me that my favourite books of the year would be – like much of my favourite art – by women. Though I think the individual voice is crucial in all of the arts, individuals don’t grow in a vacuum and because female (and, more widely, non-male) voices and viewpoints have always been overlooked, excluded, marginalised and/or patronised, women and those outside of the standard, traditional male authority figures more generally, tend to have more interesting and insightful perspectives than the ‘industry standard’ artist or commentator does. The first time that thought really struck me was when I was a student, reading about Berlin Dada and finding that Hannah Höch was obviously a much more interesting and articulate artist than (though I love his work too) her partner Raoul Hausmann, but that Hausmann had always occupied a position of authority and a reputation as an innovator, where she had little-to-none. And the more you look the more you see examples of the same thing. In fact, because women occupied – and in many ways still occupy – more culturally precarious positions than men, that position informs their work – thinking for example of artists like Leonora Carrington, Kay Sage or – a bigger name now – Frida Kahlo – giving it layers of meaning inaccessible to – because unexperienced by – their male peers.

The fact that women know more about themselves but also more about men than men do – because they have always had to – gives their work an emotional and intellectual charge often missing from those who belong comfortably within a tradition. This is a pretty well-worn idea – it’s why outsiders like Van Gogh or dropouts like Gauguin’s work speaks to us more clearly than the academic, tradition-bound art that they grew up with. Anybody on the margins, in whatever sense, of “mainstream society” has to have a working knowledge of that society, just to exist. Society has far less need to understand or even notice those people. – therefore their points of view are likely to not only be more individual, but more acute when it comes to observing the world in which they live. Class, race, gender; all of these things are always fascinatingly central to art and art history and the gradual recognition of that fact is making art history ever more exciting and vibrant. For now at least; we live in a time of conservative backlashes which attempt to restore order to those with a comfortable position within yesterday’s world – there will probably be an art historical backlash at some point, and the reputations of the mainstream stars of art in Van Gogh and Gauguin’s day, like William-Adolphe Bouguereau will find their reputations restored.

If that backlash comes, it will be from the academic equivalent of those figures who, in 2023 continued to dominate the cultural landscape. These are conservative (even if theoretically radical) people who pride themselves on their superior rational, unsentimental and “common sense” outlook, but whose views tend to have a surprising amount in common with some of the more wayward religious cults. Subscribing to shallowly Darwinist ideas, but only insofar as they reinforce one’s own prejudices and somehow never feeling the need to follow them to their logical conclusions is not new, but it’s very now. Underlying  ideas like the ‘survival of the fittest’, which then leads to the more malevolent idea of discouraging the “weak” in society by abolishing any kind of social structure that might support them is classic conservatism in an almost 19th century way, but somehow it’s not surprising to see these views gaining traction in the discourse of the apparently futuristic world of technology. In more that one way, these kinds of traditionalist, rigidly binary political and social philosophies work exactly like religious cults, with their apparently arbitrary cut off points for when it was that progress peaked/halted and civilisation turned bad. That point varies; but to believe things were once good but are now bad must always be problematic, because when, by any objective standards, was everything good, or were even most things good? For a certain class of British politician that point seems to have been World War Two, which kind of requires one to ignore actual World War Two. But the whole of history is infected by this kind of thinking – hence strange, disingenuous debates about how bad/how normal Empite, colonialism or slavery were; incidentially, you don’t even need to read the words of abolitionists or slaves themselves (though both would be good to read) to gain a perspective of whether or not slavery was  considered ‘normal’ or bad by the standards of the time. Just look at the lyrics to Britain’s most celebratory, triumphalist song of the 18th century, Rule Britannia. James Thomson didn’t write “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves; though there’s nothing inherently wrong with slavery.” They knew it was something shameful, something to be dreaded, even while celebrating it.

But anyways, the kind of avowedly forward-looking people we that are saddled with now, with their apparent concern for the future of the human species – especially the wellbeing of thus far non-existent future humans, as opposed to actual real living humans are, unlike the Amish, okay with progress, in the material sense of cars, computers, aircraft, spacecraft. But that only makes their core concern with traditional values and what is natural/unnatural even more nonsensical. If the defining thing about human beings is nature – men are like this, but not like that, women are like that, but not this; that nature dictates that compassion and medical science ate wasted on the weak and inferior, etc, then why draw the line at controlling gender and reproduction? Why get excited about the use of vaccines, or whether or not people “should” eat meat? If nature/”natural” really is the be all end all of human existence, why wear clothes, drive cars, cook food, use computers, build houses?  At what point does nature dictate what we do or can or should do? Isn’t everything humans do inherently natural because we have the capacity to do it and actually do do it?

Again, despite the supposed rationalism that fuels the superiority complexes of so many powerful people in whatever sector, their bullshit traditional ideas are dictated against – and always have been – by the lived experience of almost everyone in the world. If ‘real men’ are strong, rational and above all heterosexual, how come most of us will have met, throughout our lives, emotional, irrational men who can’t cope with pressure, who aren’t in control of themselves or their environment? How come homosexuality has existed since the beginning of recorded time and does not go away no matter how traditional or repressive society becomes or how much generation after generation insists that it is unnatural? If ‘real women’ are weak, gentle, sentimental, maternal, submissive and above all heterosexual, how come (etc, etc, etc, etc) Because of decadent western society? Well Western society is partly founded on the ideas of Ancient Greece, which though pretty misogynistic, famously did not have quite the same views on sexuality. And how come these people equally exist in every other society too? Could it be that traditional ideas of ‘human nature’ have nothing to do with actual nature but have always existed in western patriarchal societies simply to reinforce the status quo in the interests of those at the top of the hierarchical tree? From monarchies to oligarchies to modern democracies and communist states – all of which have their own ruling class, even when it is explicitly labelled otherwise – it’s been in the interest of those in charge to prevent anything which fundamentally changes the way things work.

For similar reasons, people in western society (perhaps elsewhere; I am no expert) who live unremarkable and mediocre lives within essentially complacent, and often apolitical circles are increasingly drawn to right rather than left wing extremism to gain prominence and (importantly) material success. Extremist views across the spectrum are entertainingly “edgy” and titillating to people who like to be entertained by controversy and/or shocked by outrageous behaviour, but right-wing views are far more acceptable within the media – and therefore are far more lucrative and rewarding – because they don’t threaten the financial basis that underpins the media and political structure.

So in short – only joking, this will be a long sentence (deep breath). If comedian or podcaster A) gains millions of followers who are excited about disruptive ideas that undermine the state by questioning the validity of the (sigh) mainstream media, by interrogating ideas of media ownership and the accumulation of wealth and power and so on, that represents a genuine threat to Rupert Murdoch, Viscount Rothermere, Meta and Elon Musk in a way that comedian or podcaster B), gaining millions of followers who lean towards ideas that disrupt society by attacking progressive, egalitarian or (sigh) “woke” culture does not. Regardless of the actual or avowed political beliefs of these media magnates, is comedian/podcaster A or comedian/podcaster B going to be the one they champion in order to tap into the zeitgeist (which media magnates have to do to survive)?

BUT ANYWAY, it would be nice to think that these things would be less central or at least more ignorable in 2024. It would also be nice if people in power could not enable the worst elements in society (where the two things are separable). It would be more than nice if the governments of the world would listen to people and end the butchering of helpless civilians. It’s important to remember that it is in the interests of governments – even relatively benign ones – that people in general feel powerless. But we’re not. If making resolutions works for you then make them, if not then don’t, if you have goals then aim for those and you may achieve something even if not everything you want to achieve. But if something is unacceptable to you, don’t accept it. You may have money, power, time or you may have little more than your own body and/or your own mind, but those are 100% yours and the most important things of all. Happy New Year and good luck!

what January 2020 sounded like


Despite the portentous title, this is a round up of things I was sent by nice PR people that sounded interesting, since I said at some point a while ago that I’d do this regularly (and why not?) so here they are, in alphabetical order, because that’s simplest.

Artist: Collectress
Title: Different Geographies
Label: Peeler Records
Release Date: 6 March

I mentioned it here, but have to say more about it now that I know it a little better. If their previous album Mondegreen sounded like music from a benignly haunted doll’s house, Different Geographies has the same gently spooky charm, but takes (even by their standards) strange departures,  like on Mauswork, where their oddly Victorian string arrangements blend with electronic elements, or the beautifully wistful single In The Streets, In The Fields, a truly timeless melange of strings and modern sounding percussive elements and howling noises; which sounds much prettier than that description would suggest. Even within the album – and its individual pieces – it’s unpredictable and hard to define, with songs like the busy Landscape taking unexpected twists and turns during its five and a half minutes.
As with all of Collectress’s work, the music on Different Geographies is strongly visual and does strange things to time; a magical, otherworldly record full of delicate moods and strange musical non-sequiturs.

Artist: Little Albert
Title: Swamp King
Label: Aural Music
Release Date: 27 March

I’m always a bit dubious of the blues as a style, rather than as the product of a specific, African-American culture from a specific time period, but since it definitely is one (and really, if one can accept Eric Clapton as a blues musician then anything goes), I can say that this is a very cool sounding record, notwithstanding that it was made by a young white Italian guy (Alberto Piccolo) best known for his work in doom metal band Messa. Doom is of course the closest metal comes to the blues, and there’s a monolithic, Black Sabbath quality to some of the songs here, notably the cover of Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs. In fact, it’s a pretty good album if you like gritty, bass heavy blues of the late-60s type; it sounds great, and the most worrisome factor, Alberto’s vocals, are actually really good; his voice isn’t as powerful as his guitar playing, but emerging from the darkness with a hint of reverb it’s more than acceptable. With all the caveats that come with a heavy blues album from 2020, Swamp King is kind of awesome.

Artist: Nuclear Winter
Title: Night Shift
Label: self-release
Release Date: 7th February

Very polished, melodic death metal (at times almost like death-power metal) from Zimbabwe, this is essentially not my cup of tea at all. I’m always curious to hear music from places not normally associated with that kind of music and sometimes (there’s a great Saigon Rock and Soul album that I think I’ve mentioned before, also that Mongol Metal split from 2015 and last year’s compilation Brutal Africa of death metal from Botswana) it really shows artists approaching familiar musical ideas from a really different perspective. Here it doesn’t; with no disrespect to Gary Stautmeister – who wrote, played and sang everything here aside from some guest vocals – this is an album of classy modern death metal which could have just as easily come from Sweden, France or wherever. The plus points are that he writes cool riffs (Blueshift) and solos, can do both raw and melodic vocals well, as well as writing proper songs. The minuses – well, none if you love this kind of music. I can absolutely imagine Nuclear Winter signed to a label like Relapse or Nuclear Blast; he’s very good at what he does and if you like those Scarve/Sybreed type of bands, give it a go.

Artist: Pia Fraus
Title: Empty Parks
Label: Seksound/Vinyl Junkie
Release Date: 20 January

Something like an Estonian Slowdive-meets-Drop Nineteens, Pia Fraus have been around for ages (22 years!) and this is their millionth (I think sixth) album. It has a great title and is incredibly nice. As shoegazey/dreampop type albums go it’s pretty upbeat, wistfully happy, rather than wistfully sad and mostly relatively up-tempo with at times (like Love Sports) a Stereolab kind of texture.
The female (Eve) and male (Rein) vocals go very nicely together (hence the Slowdive/Drop Nineteens comparisons, they are rarely – exception; Slow Boat Fades Out – quite as ethereal as My Bloody Valentine) and although it’s hard to choose highlights from an album where all eleven songs are quite similar, it stayed nice all the way through without getting boring* and never became twee, so that’s an achievement in itself. I don’t know enough of the band’s other work to say how good the album is by their standards, but if you like the atmosphere of those Sarah Records, Field Mice kind of bands, but not their ramshackle amateurishness, this is highly recommended.

*if you’re in the mood for pop-shoegaze. If you’re not I imagine it would be extraordinarily dull

Artist: Revenant Marquis
Title: Youth In Ribbons
Label: Inferna Profundus
Release Date: 20 January

British black metal of the ultra-mysterious one-nameless-entity type, I really liked the imagery and atmosphere surrounding the album before I even heard it and the music didn’t disappoint. It’s the (I think) fourth RM album, but I’ve only heard bits and pieces before so I guess I’ll have to get the others now. Murky, very rough (it sounds loud even when played quietly), atmospheric and extremely black, it reminds me of early Xasthur and the chaotic obscure nastiness of Manierisme, though it’s never quite that eccentric. The key to its non-crapiness is that, just about gleaming through the surface noise and thunderous rumbling are strange queasy melodies, often simple but very effective and, crucially for this kind of music, every aspect (music/lyrics – insofar as one can make them out/themes/imagery) works together to make something bigger than the sum of those parts. And though the album rarely really gets better than the superb opening duo of Menstruation (a kind of ceremonial intro) and Ephebiphobia (actual black metal), it maintains that quality throughout. Hating teenagers and school (specifically Tasker Milward School; a moody highlight is The Blood Of Lady Tasker) is, oddly, a theme that runs through the album, though I guess that’s no less than the title promises. Loved it.

Artist: Sunny Jain
Title: Wild Wild East
Label: Smithsonian Folkways
Release Date: 21 February

After a Zappa-ish opening fanfare, Indian-American percussionist Sunny Jain and his excellent band bring together a vibrant and sometimes slightly indigestible mix of Morricone-esque rock and jazz with south Asian elements. It’s very good; at times it reminded me a bit of one of the all-time great soundtracks, Rahul Dev Burman’s Yaadon Ki Baaraat, but also the superb Kaada/Patton album Bacteria Cult. At times the album takes on a droning quality which gives it a very positive, summery feel, but at times, most noticeably on Osian, that becomes a loud, busy, blaring quality and a few more of the beautiful, quiet moments would have made it an easier record to love. That said, I haven’t heard anything else quite like it and it’ll definitely be on my playlist for a while.


Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside) – “shoegaze” 1988 – 1993


First a note: this is not an exhaustive exploration of the (for want of a better term) shoegaze genre. It’s extremely subjective, being based on my own memories and tastes c.1990-2 and therefore has some glaring omissions (unaccountably I never really heard much of the Cocteau Twins. More accountably, I didn’t like Catherine Wheel very much) and takes no account whatsoever of neo-shoegaze or the careers of the bands mentioned below after the period covered.


small but perfectly formed…

Nowadays, when even the format of the album is under threat from the ability to download single songs, EPs (always a lesser format) seem ephemeral or even pointless. It was not always so, however; although posterity has made Just For A Day and maybe even Whirlpool and Ferment into ‘classic albums’, those who were around at the time will remember that virtually every shoegaze album was initially regarded as a disappointment upon release, and all were completely eclipsed by My Bloody Valentine’s genre defining/destroying Loveless when it finally emerged from its long gestation (or what seemed at the time a long gestation; compared with m b v (finally released in 2013), Loveless seems almost hastily thrown together).


That the genre is ideally suited to the format of the EP partly has to do with style; although no two shoegaze bands sounded as alike as their contemporary detractors claimed, it’s true to say that effects-laden guitars, wistful vocals and hazy, dreamy atmospheres predominated – and these things are on the whole more effective in small doses. Likewise, the subject matter of the majority of these bands was enigmatic and allusive rather than forthright or obvious – understanding lyrics (or even singing along to them) is by no means a prerequisite for good music, but it does give an album a focal point aside from the overall sound; in the majority of shoegaze records the vocals are an integral part of that sound and often the lyrics are barely audible.

EPs, singles and even mini-albums were therefore the ideal way to experience the style:
and all of the key (and minor) bands in the scene produced their best work over series’ of three or four-song 12″ records, right from the dawn of the style.

The architects of shoegaze

cocteauThrough the early/mid 80s, The Cocteau Twins were undeniably key in establishing a guitar based, semi-ambient sound and, simultaneously The Jesus and Mary Chain made feedback and sheer noise a part of the overground rock/pop scene. Some aspects of the sound that became shoegaze can be traced back further, to the post-punk scene (notably The Cure, still very much a vital part of the music scene in the late 80s.early 90s), but it is really these two bands that should be considered the real architects of shoegaze. In their wake came the 80s indie scene in gene
ral, with bands like The House of Love and The Smiths, who would influence pretty much all UK indie one way or the other from around 1984 onwards.


Baby Talk…

‘Shoegaze’ proper really kicked off in August 1988, with My Bloody Valentine’s You Made Me Realise EP.
Although MBV had been releasing records since ’85, until You Made Me Realise, the band’s sound was far more traditional, with a jangly 60s, post-Smiths, C86/twee quality very different from their aggressive, feedback and effects-laden mature sound. 1987 single Strawberry Wine is a case in point; essentially it is very similar to a song like Thorn from the You Made Me Realise EP; both songs are fast-paced indie pop, characterised by Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher’s vocal harmonies, Colm Ó Cíosóig’s dynamic, aggressive percussion and layers of MBV you madeguitars. On Strawberry Wine, though, the guitar sound is the chiming, jangly, Byrds-influenced sound then popular in the UK indie scene. On Thorn, the underlying track is not that different, but on top of the base layer of strummed guitars, the melody is formed, not by a 12-string Rickenbacker-ish sound, but by the highly peculiar vacuum cleaner-like mechanised howl of Kevin Shields’ heavily distorted guitar. Even if Thorn wasn’t a better song than Strawberry Wine (but it is), the guitar adds not only a unique sound to the song, but it also intensifies its stormy, melancholy atmosphere. This was a key feature of shoegaze that all of the best bands brought to their music; not only was the voice another instrument, the guitar was another voice.

MBV isnt

MBV followed up You Made Me Realise uncharacteristically quickly with their debut full-length album Isn’t Anything. Iconic though it is, it demonstrates exactly why the EP is the format of shoegaze: even a relatively short 40-ish minutes of disorientating, backwards-sounding, intense and mysterious hazy intensity is a bit much without the voice of .a singer like Elizabeth Fraser bringing it all together. Anyway, the impact of You Made Me Realise was pretty immediate; by October ’89, one of the first new young bands made its debut: Lush, with their Scar mini-album.



Lush 1With Scar, Lush not only established a distinct musical identity based around the opposing forces of Cocteau Twins-esque fragility (enhanced by the – typically – ‘ethereal’ vocal harmonies of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson) and prickly, punky bitterness, they also created an instantly recognisable aesthetic. 4AD – always the most coffee-table-book-friendly indie label – should have been a natural home for the shoegaze scene, but in fact Lush and Pale Saints were (I think) the only shoegaze bands aside from The Cocteau Twins (always somewhat aloof from the ‘scene’) to benefit from the label’s invariably evocative artwork and Creation became the shoegaze label. The six songs on Scar were uniformly excellent, but the production (by John Fryer, with the band) was serviceable but lacked sparkle, something rectified on the band’s next (and best) release:

Mad Love EP (1990)

Lush 2This EP exemplifies the best of the shoegaze scene; four excellent songs, no fillers (and it is surprising how many bands couldn’t record an EP without at least one lesser song), each song catchy and atmospheric but no two very alike.
This time round the production was in the hands of the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie, indie royalty, and of course the main architect of the kind of pretty noise (and it is worth remembering that, despite their ‘niceness’ most shoegaze records included the kind of abstract noise that was definitely not a normal part of chart music) that Lush were working with. Alongside three new songs (all better than anything on Scar) there is a sparkling rerecording of Thoughtforms, the somewhat leaden sound of the Scar version replaced by something more scintillating.
Lush 3Later that year, the band released Sweetness and Light, their most commercial, hook-laden record, the poppy a-side backed with two even more lighter-than-air songs, both pretty good. At the same time, it was becoming clear from interviews and TV appearances that the band were not quite the fey, angelic characters they mostly sounded like on record. By ’91 the shoegaze scene was, if not in decline, at least on a plateau, and Lush’s singles Black Spring and For Love were far patchier than their previous work. There were still great songs, but what had been ethereal had started to become watery and unmemorable and the band’s tougher songs jettisoned the shoegaze idiom for something more proto-Britpop/mainstream indie-rock-ish. Which is not what I am writing about.

Luckily, 4AD seemed to notice this watershed and released an album bringing together all the band’s work up to Sweetness and Light. Gala, especially in its lavishly packaged LP form, is all you need to know about Lush the shoegaze band, and one of the great monuments of the genre.

Lush 4


RideRide 1The month before Lush’s Mad Love went on sale, a young band from Oxford released their self-titled debut EP. Ride is not as perfect as Mad Love but it established a sound that was more pop-oriented than My Bloody Valentine, but with a heavier, noisier guitar sound than Lush. Ride balanced the unabashedly indie-pop sound of Chelsea Girl with the heavier Drive Blind (with its psychedelic, flickering guitar part strangely reminiscent of the intro to Status Quo’s ludicrous 1967 psych-pop classic Pictures of Matchstick Men) and the more reflective All I Can See and noisy Close My Eyes. The band’s sound was defined by the gentle harmony vocals of Mark Gardener and Andy Bell, whose voices bore a passing resemblance to that of MBV’s Kevin Shields, but where his voice often stayed buried, semi-coherently in the mix, Ride put their harmonies in centre stage.

Ride 2

In the summer of 1990, Ride released the eminently summery Play EP. Again, the band showcased a heavier indie rock sound, softened by the mellow Englishness of the vocals, but never as wispy and insubstantial as the scene’s detractors sometimes claimed.
The Fall EP was released in September and was another strong release, but although I remember a Melody Maker journalist claiming slightly later that the shoegaze (the then-derogatory term was coined around this time) bands were sapping their strength by releasing streams of EPs instead of saving their strength for an album, Ride were one of the few whose debut full-length (Nowhere, released a month after Fall) was actually stronger than the EPs which preceded it.
Ride 3By the time Nowhere was released, ‘shoegaze’ was at its height, with critical reactions from the music press (in those days a little more influential than now, especially on the UK indie scene) outweighed by support, especially from Melody Maker.
Ride were also wise in that they (more or less) jettisoned their shoegaze sound at the right time, the more 60s-pop/prog influenced Going Blank Again proving to be their biggest selling album. But before they moved on, the band released their most perfectly realised work, the Today Forever EP, four contrasting but still definitely ‘shoegaze’ oriented songs.



Slowdive 1If Ride were more strident and rock than Lush, then Slowdive were everything shoegaze’s critics hated about the scene: mellow, melancholy, dreamy, slow (of course), fragile. But that’s not all they were: their self-titled debut, released at the end of the autumn in 1990, was a seriously noisy release, for all its snails-pace tempos. The beautiful foghorn guitar of the title track was closer to the sound of My Bloody Valentine’s (as yet unreleased) magnum opus Loveless than any of their peers, and the way the delicate Slowdive 2female/male vocals of Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead drift through the massive soundscapes of guitar noise was distinctly different from the other bands of the genre. 1991’s Morningrise EP was another near-perfect EP but Holding Our Breath, released not long before debut album Just For A Day suggested, despite the presence of one of their most popular songs, Catch the Breeze, that the band had painted themselves into a corner; the distorted noise and feedback of the first EP had been smoothed into something altogether cleaner and more melodic, but without the stormy holding_frontatmospherics, the sound of Just for a Day sometimes veered uncomfortably towards a kind of ‘Shoegaze Moods’ new age muzak.

Unlike Ride and Lush though, Slowdive’s second LP Souvlaki, released in 1993 after the death of shoegaze, was probably their strongest work.

slowdive LPs

Other bands
Shoegaze was not a vast scene, but at its height, EPs more-or-less in its style(s) proliferated almost weekly. The following are a few bands who excelled on EPs:

CurveBlindfold (1991), Frozen (1991), Cherry (1991)

Curve appeared fully formed in 1991, with the slick and accomplished Blindfold EP. Despite very positive reviews, there was a certain amount of suspicion of the band in the indie press because the duo – Toni Halliday, (probably the shoegaze pinup, though not my personal one) and Dean Garcia – had links to various mainstream pop artists, having worked with Eurythmics and having attempted a mainstream pop career as State of Play in the 80s. Curve were important, though, in that they brought electronic elements and dance beats to the shoegaze genre, not to mention the only (to my knowledge) appearance of a rapper on a shoegaze song, namely JC-001, who appears – surprisingly successfully – on Ten Little Girls. Curve’s first three EPs were consistently strong, but their debut full-length Doppelganger (1992) was the archetypical disappointing shoegaze album, partly, as with Slowdive, because more than four or five songs in the band’s style becomes something of an endurance test.


ChapterhouseFreefall (1990)

Chapterhouse bore the brunt of the music press’ disaffection with shoegaze, and indeed their discography is on the whole one of the weaker ones of the scene. Freefall is probably the best of their EPs, although lead track Falling Down (a Curve-like funky dance/shoegaze crossover) has not aged as well as one would like. For the best of Chapterhouse see the list at the bottom of this article.


The Boo RadleysAdrenalin EP (1992)

It’s hard not to hate The Boo Radleys for Wake Up Boo etc, but all of their early EPs (and their debut album Ichabod & I) are all worthy of investigation. Adrenalin features Lazy Day, one of the finest shoegaze-pop songs of the period, the perfect marriage of pop hooks and blurry noise, and satisfyingly short too.

boo radleys

MooseCool Breeze (1991)

Moose, like Chapterhouse, seemed to come along just as the music press was growing weary of the shoegaze genre, but the three EPs they released in 1991 form a body of work with a very distinct personality and charm. Cool Breeze is the best of these, four perfect, sparse and autumnal pop songs, simple but inventive. Somewhat surprisingly, the band’s debut album XYZ was good too, despite an unexpected segue into mellow Americana.


Drop NineteensWinona (1992)

Labelmates of Moose (on Hut Records), Boston’s Drop Nineteens were (I think) the only US band to fully embrace the shoegaze sound, and their single Winona is a melancholy, droning-but-catchy classic.

drop nineteens

Some songs of the period that would make an excellent shoegaze compilation (with the disclaimer than not all are technically shoegaze songs):
* My Bloody Valentine – Thorn

* Ride – Vapour Trail

* Lush – De-Luxe

* Slowdive – Slowdive

* Cocteau Twins – Heaven or Las Vegas

* Chapterhouse – Breather

* Curve – Ten Little Girls

* Boo Radleys – Lazy Day

* The House of Love – Christine

* Pale Saints – Half-Life

* Drop Nineteens – Winona

* The Wendys – Pulling My Fingers Off

* Moose – Suzanne

* Cranes – Thursday

* My Bloody Valentine – When You Sleep

* Slowdive – Souvlaki Space Station

* Ride – Today

* Lush – Thoughtforms

* The House of Love – Destroy the Heart

* Curve – The Coast is Clear

* Pale Saints – Throwing Back the Apple

* Codeine – D

* Moose – Untitled Love Song

* My Bloody Valentine – Slow