Sunday, November 06, 2005

Just For A Day (Shoegaze Part 5)

My PC pretty much packed it in. Fortunately, I had a really nice workstation donated to me by a wealthy relative (not exactly, but something like that -- I can't afford this shit), so I've spent the last few days converting myself over to the new Mac. It matches my older G4 laptop nicely.

You'd think these infrequent updates were becoming a habit or something. No, there's always an excuse.


The early '90s saw an influx of new shoegaze bands. Of these, Slowdive, Lush, and Chapterhouse were the three who best defined the sound for me.

With three well-received EPs published through Creation Records in 1990, Slowdive released
Just For A Day - their debut full-length - the following year. Propelled by the excellent songwriting skills of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, they gained a die-hard audience who appreciated their (hack) shimmering guitars and (ugh) ethereal vocals. This sounds contrived to hell, but it's an accurate description. I apologize for the phrasing of this paragraph; I feel like I've read it so many times before, and indeed, it's been said in just about every interview and review of Slowdive since they formed. Shimmering and ethereal.

The band actually managed to break the UK Top 50 with
Just For A Day, but with the rapid decline of shoegaze in the popular media, and the inevitable onslaught of grunge, their subsequent releases sold poorly. Slowdive was dropped by Creation after their last album, Pygmalion, in 1995.

Looking back, both
Souvlaki, their sophomore album, and Pygmalion are great records, the latter perhaps one of my favorites of all time. Both are deeply emotional and sonically interesting -- and were also fairly unique when released (a double edged sword, given the public's lack of acceptance).

Slowdive regrouped as an alt-country-inspired act, under the name Mojave 3 -- adding, amongst other members, Simon Rowe from Chapterhouse. They're still around, and both Halstead and Goswell have produced solo albums on top of their combined work. Halstead also has his own record label, although I haven't had a chance to properly check it out yet.

There are way too many good Slowdive songs. I'm going to post a few classics along with some hard to find tracks. The cover of "Some Velvet Morning" is amazing:

Slowdive - Slowdive
Slowdive - Morningrise
Slowdive - She Calls
Slowdive - Catch The Breeze
Slowdive - Some Velvet Morning
Slowdive - Dagger
Slowdive - Blue Skied 'An Clear
Slowdive - J's Heaven
Slowdive - Crazy For You


Early Lush can come across as a sort of pop-Slowdive.
Gala, a 1990 EP-compilation album released in the States on Reprise, was, to an extent, their high point. Their debut album, Spooky - produced by Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie - was reasonable, but unable to live up to the hype established by their early singles. A bit heavy on the chamber influence, maybe.

As grunge and Brit-Pop took hold, Lush focused more on the pop and less on the shoegaze, neutering the impact of their vocal harmonies and the swirling guitars of their female leads. They released two forgettable albums (yes,
Lovelife was pretty successful, but still) before breaking up after the suicide of band member Chris Acland.

Someone asked me about Cocteau Twins in a comment - a band who both influenced and were friends with Lush - and while I don't think they fit into a shoegaze retrospective, I will give them props for their influence as a dream-pop band. "Iceblink Luck," one of their more popular singles, was a nice dip into the world of shoegaze.

Lush - Breeze (Peel Session)
Lush - Sweetness & Light

Cocteau Twins - Iceblink Luck


Chapterhouse are a horribly frustrating band.
Whirlpool, their first album, was intense and viceral and could - for a while - almost bring a tear to my eye. From there it went straight downhill into a mix of contrived dreck ("We Are The Beautiful" from their second album, Blood Music), boring ambient pieces (with the exception of "Summer Chill"), crappy techno remixes, and eventually the rapid demise of the band.

So what the fuck is there a best of Chapterhouse compilation for? And how could it be so damn good? Where did that Beatles cover and all those studio demos come from? It's called
Rownderbowt, and if you ever see it for sale used, buy it. I've been told it goes for $80US on eBay. My ex-wife has my copy (yeah, I bitched about this before in the Ride section). She says she'll rip it for me, but that hasn't happened yet, has it? So I'm bitching again.

Chapterhouse - Sixteen Years
Chapterhouse - Breather
Chapterhouse - Treasure
Chapterhouse - Autosleeper
Chapterhouse - Mesermise
Chapterhouse - Summer Chill


I know nothing about Drop other than they were on Chapter 22 in 1991 and they liked The Designers Republic (but had horrible CD artwork of their own). Can anyone fill in the blanks? I acquired their CD -
Within And Beyond - from an old friend of mine who knows as much about them as I do.

Drop - Drone 1
Drop - Mirrored
Drop - Be There