A post for Valentine’s Day that is nothing whatever to do with Valentine’s Day.
A ‘scene’ that wasn’t really a scene to start with, is now, apparently, a real thing! I didn’t notice when this happened, but there seems to be a renewed interest in ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself‘, ‘Shoegaze’. Bands from that all-important 1989-91 period have been reforming like there’s no tomorrow, and there are even now new bands who seem to have been influenced by the sounds of my youth – look out for Cheatahs. They’re great and you can also have fun playing ‘shoegaze-guess-who’ with their setlist.
So anyway, before we’re engulfed in a sea of lush guitars and shimmering effects pedals, I thought that this would be an appropriate time to make a little confession. But first, some background.
What is ‘Shoegazing’?
No, no, you’re doing it wrong.
For those of you who don’t know, ‘Shoegazing’ was a term made up by some music journos, probably for a laugh whilst propping up the bar at Syndrome, to describe the way that the guitarists in certain sorts of indie bands seemed to stare down at the floor while they were playing. The word was also used as a genre term for a number of bands which the journos had randomly lumped together in order to have a new ‘indie scene’ to write about. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article on it describes it thus:
“The British music press—particularly NME and Melody Maker—named this style shoegazing because the musicians in these bands stood relatively still during live performances in a detached, introspective, non-confrontational state, hence the idea that they were gazing at their shoes.”
I seem to remember it as just a general piss-take term that was randomly applied to the bands, the music, the ‘scene’ and the gig-goers (everybody danced staring at the floor, whilst shaking their (our) chin-length fringes, even when pogo-ing). In fact the whole WikiP article seems to credit it as much more of a ‘thing’ that I remember it really being at all, although the inkies did milk the joke for all it was worth. It certainly seems to be more of a ‘thing’ now than it was back then. But then, I was drunk all the time, so what do I know?
I saw most, no all, of the bands which have been, rightly or wrongly, associated with this (supposed) sub-genre of indie music. Some I saw by choice; Ride, Pale Saints, Moose, Chapterhouse, and some because you could hardly avoid the buggers; Lush, Slowdive. And then, of course, there were the Mummys and Daddys of all Shoegazers; My Bloody Valentine.
Here, from my miniscule archive of back-in-the-day photos, are some shoegazers in action.
Ian Masters from The Pale Saints.
I liked The Pale Saints, and Ian Masters always looked like he was about to expire from consumption. This was devastatingly attractive to indie girls.
And, is this fellow in Slowdive?
Tsk. They get everywhere.
And now it’s all back again. I don’t follow the music press any more, so I didn’t realise that this was happening, but now that I do, I intend to fess up.
I preferred the bit before ‘Shoegaze’ went all … ‘shoegazey’. When the music had a bit more edge and sharper teeth. Loop (natch), Spacemen 3, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jnr. Even the so-called shoegaze bands tended to have a noisier, harder sound earlier on. I’ll take the holocaust that is You Made Me Realise over Soon‘s “ooh”-ing and “aah”-ing any day. Too much shoegaze is like a diet of soup, soup and soup.
So, My Bloody Valentine? Well here’s my confession. I think that Isn’t Anything is miles better than Loveless. There. I’ve said it. Wanna fight about it?