Monday, October 10, 2005

The Spiral Continues (Shoegaze Part 2)

In the meantime, over in England in the late '70s, something big was going on. Punk had exploded and imploded, and out of the mess came what we call post-punk. Tricky, huh? You could call just about anything post-punk these days, and while shoegaze itself may not be a straight shot back to the guitar hooks of Gang Of Four, there was an interesting array of experimentation going on under the auspices of "post punk" music.

It would be difficult to write about the post-punk revolution without mentioning Joy Division. Their influence is still huge, even if their time was cut short with the suicide of Ian Curtis -- I would argue that it's their moody, counter-cultural ethos which is channelled through shoegaze. After reforming as New Order, the band formerly known as Joy Division eventually veered from their dark past, but not before giving us a few great tracks featuring feedback and drum machines.

Factory Records, Joy Division's label, was also coming into it's own at this time, with freshly signed bands like The Happy Mondays and A Certain Ratio heading up the vision of label-head Tony Wilson. As the '80s wore on, Factory would gain sufficient cult-like notoriety to result in magazine, television, book, and eventually movie coverage.

Joy Division - Isolation
Joy Division - Transmission (Peel Session)
New Order - Truth

In 1983, feedback was cool -- no, feedback was awesome. So were purposely dodgy production techniques and eccentric vocals. The Jesus & Mary Chain (JAMC) - namely, the brothers Reid and drummer Bobby Gillespie - hit the UK Top 50 riding a wave of feedback layered over almost indistinguishable post-punk guitar hooks. Taking Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound to the extreme, JAMC laid down a post-punk blueprint that many bands would follow.

The Jesus & Mary Chain - Never Understand
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Some Candy Talking
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Just Like Honey
The Jesus & Mary Chain - Inside Me (Peel Session)

Gillespe would go on to form Primal Scream, who themselves became a major influence in the alternative music scene, first under the C86 genre banner, and later, as relative - Scottish - outsiders in the Madchester blow-up. While C86 - named for an NME-released mix-tape compilation - doesn't hold much direct relevance for shoegaze, it did feature a number of well-received bands (Primal Scream, The Mighty Lemondrops, The Wedding Present, The Soupdragons).

The guitar squall of The Jesus & Mary Chain was echoed by another English band who formed in the mid '80s -- Spacemen 3. Primarily the artistic vehicle for Pete Kember (Sonic Boom), and Jason Pierce (J. Spaceman), along with Stewart Roswell and Pete Baines, Spacemen 3 pushed forward with unconventional instrumentation, and a love for antiquated electronics.

The band lasted four years, but a few of the members went on to form their own well-received follow-up projects. Kember, with Kevin Shields, created Experimental Audio Research (EAR), while Pierce fronted the relatively successful Spiritualized. Sometime-Spacemen 3 member Willie Carruthers worked with Kember under the Spectrum moniker, and has his own - often overlooked - band, Freelovebabies.

Spacemen 3 - Losing Touch With My Mind
Spacemen 3 - How Does It Feel?
Spacemen 3 - Revolution
Spacemen 3 - Walking With Jesus
Spacemen 3 - Suicide

Clearly, the lines I have drawn are starting to cross; shoegaze as a genre was about to come into its' own.


Part 2 bonus audio:
Joy Division - Interview by Richard Skinner (3 minutes)
Primal Scream - Velocity Girl (C86)
Half Man Half Biscuit - The Trumpton Riots (Peel Session/C86)
The Jesus & Mary Chain w/Hope Sandoval - Sometimes Always

END PART 2 (Next: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, Spiritualized)