Title: A Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995
Label: Cherry Red
It’s a well worn explanation that I’ll briefly retread and, indeed, from a foot perspective, that’s exactly were we start this review because ‘the press’ that amorphous body was given the honour of coining the term ‘shoegaze’ as they watched a host of bands twiddling with their guitar effects pedals as well as becoming totally engrossed in their feedback, distortion and minor chord heartaches, casting their eyes downwards to…well, some say their shoes but I’d like to think they were attaining a relaxed, Zen-like state.
The shoegaze genre in itself has produced a number of questions because some artists question their part in it and others, staring in from the outside, question the genre’s importance. Where was the Nirvana of shoegaze? Indeed, where was the Oasis or the Blur? These tectonic-shifting bands belonged to musical movements that changed the face of music. Shoegaze? They couldn’t even move themselves could they? Most of them just stood there and emanated music from within, like a new found Dr Who monster.
I think that those music fans who judge shoegaze by these terms have lost the point of the genre. Firstly, shoegaze wasn’t really a genre at all. In fact, this top quality box set proves it because it admits that most of its included bands could easily be classified as somethings else. Bark Psychosis could be easily pigeon holed as ‘post rock’ as could Flying Saucer Attack (look at Wiki’s Post Rock band list, I’m not the only one, although you also receive the labels of ‘lo-fi’ and ‘noise’), Sun Dial could be seen as psychedelic or space rock while Curve had a goth/pop essence. What I love about this 5CD box set, though, is the open admittance to all of this. There’s no frightened shoe-horning of shoe-gaze into a unique an exclusive club just to make this box set seem more relevant than it already is.
What shoegaze, if the label ever really existed at all, offered to bands was a point in time, a point in style, a touch stone. A map reference of a sort that each band crossed or lived by. A sort of underlying theme, philosophy, an undercurrent, a foundation. Any of all of these things. So that, when you hear music from all of these bands in this set you can almost hear the tiny threads that connect one to each other. It doesn’t matter if the band offered drone-like riffs or dreamy vocalisations.
What I like about this box set is that it is entitled ‘A Story of Shoegaze’. Not The but A. This is an acknowledgement that licensing restrictions has prevented a more thorough telling of the story to be told which is fine and, because of the openness of this set, I accept and very quickly forgive. There’s plenty to enjoy, though, because there are some dynamite examples of the gene including Lush, Jesus and Mary Chain, Cocteau Twins, Ride, Seefeel and Slowdive.
It would be great for this story to continue to include current bands, rarities and more but, as it stands, it’s a total triumph and great value for money too.