Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Rare Beginnings (Shoegaze Part 3)

Thanks to Funtime OK for giving us a permanent link; I've been a reader for a while -- go check them out. They cover interesting stuff, and they have a cool layout.


In 1986, in Boston, Maryland, three friends were making music as Galaxie 500 (yeah, named after the car). Although they played together until 1990, Galaxie 500 went largely undiscovered on a popular level until much later. Their influence today is apparent not only through the re-release of their entire back catalogue, but by how many other musicians reference them as great, inspirational song-writers.

Galaxie 500 - Flowers
Galaxie 500 - Fourth Of July
Galaxie 500 - Snowstorm

While it did have some followers in the States, shoegaze - at its' peak - was a distinctly English sound. The late '80s brought us bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, and Chapterhouse, who along with a host of lesser-known artists would define the genre. Creation Records label boss Alan McGee once said the only reason he signed shoegaze bands other than My Bloody Valentine, was to give people something - anything - to listen to while Kevin Sheilds came up with the new album (
Loveless) -- a comment which does huge disservice to many talented musicians.

But it wasn't Creation who signed Spiritualized -- it was Dedicated Records. As Spiritualized, Jason Pierce leveraged the sound he had developed in Spacemen 3, and gave us the amazing
Lazer Guided Melodies. The album was an underground favorite, and paved the way for Pierce's iconic indie-rock status. After Lazer Guided Melodies, Spiritualized moved towards a much bigger, more orchestral sound with banks of horns, gospel choirs, and Jason Pierce looking more like a conductor than a frontman. We got some good years out of them before the decline, and we have none other than Richard Ashcroft to thank for some of the amazing (and sad) lyrics we'd hear on both Pure Phase and Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.

Spiritualized - Run
Spiritualized - I Want You
Spiritualized - Angel Sigh
Spiritualized - Lay Back In The Sun
Spiritualized - Walking With Jesus (Live)

That's right -- Richard Ashcroft. Before being sued by The Rolling Stones for Bittersweet Symphony's ubiquitous string arrangement, Mad Richard and The Verve were a very different band. Full of angst and feedback, barefoot on-stage and stoned to hell, The Verve were a bunch of long-haired, drugged out shoegaze posterboys. Later, Ashcroft would whine to the press that nobody wanted to hear what he had to say when he was happy -- only when he was sad. And you know what? It's true.

Richard grew up, married Jason Pierce's long-time girlfriend and former bandmate, Kate Radley (the source of much pain for Pierce), had a baby, and started to write some really horrible music. Sure there were some golden post-shoegaze years -- I just hope Ashcroft put some of that cash away for the kid.

The Verve - All In The Mind
The Verve - A Man Called Sun
The Verve - Feel
The Verve - Gravity Grave

Also emerging in the late '80s were Loop and The Telescopes. Loop had a dark, brooding feel to their music, and managed a few releases on the smaller - cool and unstable - labels of the time, like Situation 2, and Chapter 22, as well as with the more established Rough Trade Records. They didn't last long though, with the rhythm section (John Wills and Neil MacKay) going off to form The Hair & Skin Trading Company in 1991, but they had a devoted audience, and the band's founder, Robert Hampson, has continued to produce music as Main. Loop often wore their love for Suicide on their sleeve.

Loop - Arc-Lite (Sonar)
Loop - Black Sun
Loop - Be Here Now
Loop - Vapour

The Telescopes started out with a very hard edge, focusing on driving guitars and growling vocals. After their first label went under, they were picked up by Creation Records, and continued to produce music until as recently as 2001. The Telecopes are another diverse, underappreciated band from the early days of the shoegaze era.

The Telescopes - Anticipating Nowhere
The Telescopes - Oil Seed Rape
The Telescopes - All A Dream

END PART 3 (Next: My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Chapterhouse - the big bands of shoegaze, for real)