Sunday, March 09, 2008


Rattling on elsewhere about the Cocteau Twins got me looking to see what Wikipedia had to say about them. In the list of Robin Guthrie's collaborations, production and otherwise, I was surprised to see that he'd produced some (first generation) shoegazer's records that I really liked. It makes sense that he would have done, I just didn't know that he had. So... I plan to run you through the entire good, bad and abominable of shoegazing. You are cordially invited to ignore it completely.

Right, first a couple of Guthrie collaborations:

Lush - Deluxe. Lush sounded like this before shoegazing had even been invented. About five years later they made those more obvious records that actually sold some copies. To simpletons.

Chapterhouse - Falling Down. This is my favourite Chapterhouse single. Not my favourite song of theirs, cos that was Die Die Die. Which was never a single. It was given away as a bonus vinyl disc with the early copies of their first album. Therefore the no video for it is fairly unlikely to turn up on youtube. So Falling Down it is. This is from when they went 'a bit baggy'.

By going from Lush to Chapterhouse I've kind of leapfrogged the first REAL shoegazers who were Ride. The first few Ride EPs and their debut album were ace. After that they decided on a policy of just doing good things every now and again. This video for Chelsea Girl, the first song on their first EP has an interview with Andy Bell and Loz Colbert before it. Andy is now the surly bass player in Oasis, despite him being a far better guitarist than anyone in the band. Except Liam. Loz Colbert is now the drummer in the reformed Jesus and Mary Chain. To be fair, he's a fucking brilliant drummer. Another interesting fact is that loads of girls at college used to fancy my friend Ian Turnips because he looked like Mark Gardener from Ride. He's the one doing all of the singing on this. Mark Gardener that is, not Turnips.

Slowdive - Catch the Breeze. People did and still do really LOVE Slowdive. I always thought that they weren't catchy enough vocally. Their first album, Just For a Day, I've never been able to listen to all the way through in one sitting, cos I'm just too bored by about halfway through. That said, I did really like Catch the Breeze. But they stand accused more than anyone of being the biggest perpetrators of The Misunderstanding My Bloody Valentine Mistake.

My most recent shoegazing-revisited obsession has been Moose. This is surprising as they were considered runts of the litter even at the time. Well, everybody's wrong. They were dead good. You're all idiots. To prove it, you're getting three singles.

Moose - Jack (first single)
Moose - Suzanne (ace single)
Moose - This River Will Never Run Dry ('This-is-over. We'd-best-go-a-bit-country' GREATEST single)

Now. Because when I went to see Moose they were supporting Stereolab, I'm putting up Stereolab's finest moment from when they were
a. Nearly shoegazers
b. Not yet really dull
Stereolab - French Disko. Appearing on The Word to give it some context in time. Also because there doesn't appear to be an official video for it. Good performance though.

There are a couple of other candidates in the 'are-they-aren't-they?' shoegazing camp. First up are The Pale Saints. I can't find a good clip of Sight of You or She Rides The Waves, so I'm going with their fantastic cover version of the Nancy Sinatra rarity Kinky Love.

In existence before ANY of the rest of them then outlasting the whole thing by a fair few years were The Boo Radleys. Before they were cracking the UK top ten armed with bad trumpets, they were making great singles like Lazy Day.

The Iron Maiden of shoegazing were The Catherine Wheel. In that they were a bit more rockist than they were ethereal (I got this far without describing something as ethereal. Haven't I did well?) and that one of them was related to Iron Maiden. I don't know which one, but the singer of The Catherine Wheel's name is Rob Dickinson.
The Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic. They got accused of racism for the couplet "It's the colour of your skin. Your skin is black metallic". It was a strange time. If you need to get hold of a copy of this song, it's on the A-side of the Black Metallic single, and on the b-side in various forms of every single Catherine Wheel since then. Their guitarist, Brian Futter, had exceptionally corkscrew hair when they first turned up on Snub TV.

By now, anyone with a fringe, a Fender Jaguar guitar and a chorus and delay pedal had been signed to pretend indies Hut or Dedicated Records. This was not good. Not good at all. Here's Revolver with Heaven Sent an Angel. The only upside of this is that the clip is from the Indie Charts bit of The Chart Show. Mat Flint from Revolver won a Brit Award the year after this in the 'Most Schmindie Singing Ever' category.

It was all done bar the not shouting in the UK. It was over to the USA to see if they could do anything interesting with it. They could, briefly. Medicine were the first band I can remember being described as 'Dreampop', which is American for 'Shoegazing'. This is Aruca from their first EP. At the start you can clearly hear that they have not made The Misunderstanding My Bloody Valentine Mistake.

The Drop Nineteens briefly looked like they could save the whole thing. Sadly, they didn't and life moved on. They did leave us with the song Winona though.

The Misunderstanding My Bloody Valentine Mistake.
Where shoegazing went wrong right across the board was down to the people involved not realising why My Bloody Valentine were great. Pre-Loveless, MBV made records they had an inch-perfect balance of detached melodic sugar-sweet vocals, distant and effects heavy guitars, terrible production and out and out violence in the musical backing. Long has run the debate on which Valentines album is better - Isn't Anything Vs Loveless, but, to quote Paul Calf's video diary, you've set up a false opposition. As superb as Isn't Anything is, the point at which they changed guitar music forever was with the You Made Me Realise EP. From start to finish it's almost perfect. I don't even *like* one of the songs on it, and it's still near flawless. Bands like Slowdive removed the violence. They removed the groove. They removed the bit that made the floppy fringed kids want to throw themselves around beer-sticky dancefloors on a Thursday night. The music lost it's heartbeat.

Here are My Bloody Valentine with You Made Me Realise. The video was directed by Douglas Hart from The Jesus and Mary Chain. Feel surprised that I've skilfully avoided going on at length about their influence in all of this as yet.

In the same way that the shoegazers got MBV wrong, so the post-rock hoardes and the (seriously, I'm not just being silly) Nu-gazers don't understand what was worth bothering with about the shoegazers. Many times now I've had this conversation

"They were amazing. They played one riff for about nine minutes"
"Then what happened?"
"Didn't the crowd at least try to set fire to them on behalf of music everywhere?"
"This country..."

Often I'm told, or it is at least implied with the condescending tone that only the eternally tuneless can manage that I just don't get it with (post-post-post-)post-rock. I do. I get it. It's prog-rock that's more shit. How far away am I so far?

So anyway. That's that all sorted out then. If you want to delve further you could do at lot worse than to click here for the Shoegazeralive blog which, as far as I can make out, is a feller in Brazil uploading entire albums/back catalogues to rapidshare/yousendit services for you to download for nothing. At the time of typing Curve are at the top of the front page there. I left them out on purpose. They were on Dave Stewart's record label. Get in touch via the comments section or email if you feel aggrieved that I've left out Adorable, Smashing Orange, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa or Feral from Newcastle and that it's just unforgivable.

Cheerio then. I'll see you in about a year and a half.


Blogger Jyoti said...

Gaz, you left out Smashing Orange.

3:17 AM  

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