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Old 03-29-2010, 03:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default A (Relatively) Brief History of Shoegaze

I had a lot of fun pooling together my collection to make the last Beginners' Guide to Shoegaze, so I figured, why not.

There seems to be at least some interest here in the nebulous world of shoegaze, which by an outsider's perspective probably constitutes a shedload of effects and not much else. The reality of the matter is that shoegaze had some interesting beginnings (I would say there's still quite a few smashing acts out there today) and is a story worth being told. While my expertise with any musical genre is somewhat cursory (seeing how I wasn't alive for most of it), I feel like I can offer a fair perspective on the story of how this endearing genre made its way into the world.

Many of the artists I feature here will not fit in to the traditional sense of the genre (e.g. My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, Lush, etc.) but hold a significant amount of sway in how it actually fell together. This is an important point for me to stress, because they are the same roots that artists come back to again and again throughout shoegaze's somewhat tenuous existence. If you want the hour-long trial of the golden era (1989-1994), pick up a copy of Loveless and take a ride; otherwise, read on.

I hope you guys have as much fun reading this as I do writing it.
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Old 03-29-2010, 03:16 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I love shoegaze, so I look forward to this...I hope you write about Black Tambourine at some point...one of the shortest lived but most influential bands for shoegazing.
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Old 03-29-2010, 05:54 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Actually I've never heard of them. You can be sure I'll give them a listen sometime soon though. Thanks for the plug.
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Old 03-29-2010, 05:59 PM   #4 (permalink)
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My pleasure...I love the opportunity to name drop. If you have never heard them they are definitely a must for any fan of the genre...their entire catalog is contained on one CD (the Complete Black Tambourine), but their influence in undeniable. If you need help finding it, I definitely wouldn't mind providing a link.
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Old 03-29-2010, 06:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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i've always pegged the start of shoegaze with The Smith's 'How Soon is Now' single. i know it's not indicative of that group's typical output but it's got all the prerequisites, looping bass line, melancholy vocals, sparse guitar drenched in oodles of reverb, all while still maintaining a clear identity as a pop song as opposed to becoming avant garde sonic art.

also please don't overlook SIANspheric in this thread.
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Old 03-29-2010, 08:49 PM   #6 (permalink)
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From my perspective there were three definitive musical influences on what is now called shoegaze, I’ll touch on the other two sometime later but for now I want to focus on the first (and probably the largest) of these.


I am, of course, referring to the existence of a somewhat overlooked but monumentally influential Scottish band named Cocteau Twins. As an adherent of the same dream pop scene that spawned seminal acts like the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins were responsible for delivering equal components of ethereal ambience and accessible pop sensibilities that influenced everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Medicine. Indeed, Elizabeth Fraser’s vocals served as a model for up-and-coming shoegaze vocalists everywhere to emulate. Albums which explore this particular influence in depth include magnum opuses such as Loveless, Souvlaki, and Spooky.


Unquestionably their strongest work, Cocteau Twins’ 1984 offering Treasure explored dynamic themes in songwriting all while maintaining Fraser’s unique vocal phrasing and delivery. Truly an album way ahead of its time, Treasure still serves as a model for modern shoegaze bands to imitate. And though it predated the existence of the term “shoegaze” by some five years or so, it wouldn’t look out of place next to other epochs of that age.

Perhaps three of the most powerful tracks open Treasure, and for its era it resounds as an uncharacteristically diverse album, employing the heavy use of ebbing acoustic and electric guitars and synth washes to fill out passages. The jazzy key lines and driving kick drum complement each other nicely on many tracks, and while it’s evident that Treasure still entrenches itself in the mire of 1980s production techniques, the tin-can drum machine actually sounds good alongside Robin Guthrie’s piercing guitar. And to close the album, the sweeping string arrangements and soft choral vocals produce a memorable and evocative effect upon the listener, ensuring Cocteau Twins’ existence in the annals of music history.

While this album may be one of my favorite dream pop albums of all time, it isn’t just a personal influence. Treasure served and still serves as an enormous influence on the female-dominated landscape of non-lyrical vocals, and if anyone has ever topped Elizabeth Fraser’s performance on this record (shoegaze or no), I haven’t heard it. Check it.







As a sidenote that might be one of my favorite record covers ever. It's just so emblematic of the music it represents.
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Old 03-29-2010, 08:51 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Great thread. I am very new to Shoegaze, and i'm enjoying everything.
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Old 03-29-2010, 09:01 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Perfect way to start! Cocteau Twins needs to be heard by everyone, not just shoegaze fans. Amazing music...the day I discovered the Cocteau Twins I hungrily devoured their entire discography and listened to nothing but them for months on end.

Heaven or Las Vegas is another classic of theirs...and if the intensity and overwhelming dreaminess of their other albums is too much, then that is the album to go with.

Great start to the thread!
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Old 03-29-2010, 09:33 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Thanks for the nods guys, I'll try not to disappoint you with the rest.

And mr dave, I'm familiar with SIANspheric from my brother but I don't think they really come across as a core influence on shoegaze, they weren't even active until the mid-nineties. Not to shoot you down or anything, I'll try and wrangle a link somewhere.
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Old 03-29-2010, 10:00 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Downloading your beginner's guide at the moment, and will take the ride through the deeper look into shoegaze on here...
My days of not knowing what Shoegaze stands for, shall be gone.
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