Glyph is worse than some and better than others. He believes that life is just one damned thing after another, that only pop music can save us now, and that mercy is the mark of a great man (but he's just all right). Nothing he writes here should be taken as an indication that he knows anything about anything.

Related Post Roulette

24 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    Ah, now this is a good way to kick off a new year.

    The analogy I use with myself for shoegaze is that it sounds like music played on the other side of a thick curtain. You can hear the voices and the chords and you know that, where those people are, they sound intelligible… but from this place, they sound mumbled.

    Your analogy of the womb is even better.Report

  2. Glyph says:

    One thing I struggled with: where does U2 fit in this history?

    Particularly by the time of Eno (who later worked with Slowdive and repped for MBV) and the Unforgettable Fire, the washes of ambient sound and heavily-treated guitarscapes in place of “riffs” have to be considered an influence or predecessor. Not to mention, I see Radiohead and Coldplay as shoegaze-derived; but you don’t get to those bands without U2.

    Ultimately, I left U2 out because A.). Their rhythm section is often more prominent, in that postpunk-Joy-Division-inspired way, than in most shoegaze, and B.). In Bono, they definitely have a “frontperson” that doesn’t fit well with the (theoretically) ego-dissolving shoegazers.

    But it doesn’t feel right to ignore them, even if they wouldn’t be acknowledged by the shoegazers.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Glyph says:

      Is this the type of thing you have in mind?

    • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

      Now that makes me think about the new Foals album, Holy Fire (note: it’s really good). I wouldn’t really consider them particularly shoegazey, but they are definitely post-shoegaze. (Warning, I guess: if you want to look up their song “Inhaler”, you should know that it’s not particularly safe for work.)Report

      • Glyph in reply to Jaybird says:

        RE: “post-shoegaze” – In my mind, I definitely divide up guitar rock into lumps like “pre-VU, and post-VU”, and “pre-Psychocandy, and post-Psychocandy“, and “pre-Loveless, and post-Loveless“.

        Some records or sounds are just sort of atomic game-changers, and the stuff afterwards can’t help but sound different, if only due to the lingering background radiation. Shoegaze strikes me as something like that; it introduced textures and compositional approaches that are still being mined today.Report

  3. J@m3z Aitch says:

    Very nice. I love JAMC, most of the more ethereal stuff not so much.

    If that doesn’t make you want to riot in the streets, I don’t know what will.

    “Anarchy in the UK” still works for me.Report

    • Glyph in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      Psychocandy is the bomb. I do wish that JAMC would have never introduced a drum machine on the later records; IMO a live drummer, no matter how rudimentarily cavemanlike, works better on the more “rock” end of shoegaze (though drum machines can work quite nicely in the more ethereal/dance/electronic end).

      And I would have thought that S3 song would appeal to a libertarianish guy like yourself (no politics!)

    • Glyph in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

      And don’t worry: The JAMC/abrasive/less-ethereal end will be well-represented in the next two posts as well.

      I strive for balance!Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to Glyph says:

        Psychcandy is great, but I like the songs on Darklands better. After that I find their albums more hit and miss (for my own idiosyncratic tastes).

        Looking forward to lots of distortion in that future post!Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Darklands IS pretty great, and weirdly the drum machines on that one don’t really bother me too much; either the songs are just that good, or the drum machines sound less artificial than they do on Automatic for some reason?Report

  4. Maribou says:

    This is a genre I only dig *when* I dig it, and then I dig it very much. So tonight is not the right night to listen to these videos, but since I know (and love, when I’m not busy being fickle) most of these bands, I can tell what an excellent post this is even before I listen to them.

    Very much looking forward to the rest.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Maribou says:

      I go through phases myself. I’m in one now.

      But boy, if I could get back all the money I spent on mediocre shoegaze records…

      For a while there, I would just pick up ANYTHING, hoping to replicate the “hit” of some of the earliest records, and it’s pretty rare to find that, though finding at least one good song (that’s how they get you) isn’t all that unusual – in this way, shoegaze is a little like the garage/psych rock that is its distant ancestor.

      One day there’ll be a “Nuggets” comp for shoegaze.

      The downside of shoegaze is: it can get samey, and a wealth of (now-probably-easier-to-create) effects can sometimes (at least partially) cover up a paucity of songwriting ideas.Report

  5. As I think I once noted, I used to be in a shoegaze band (though in the mid-aughts, the unfortunate term-de-arte was nugaze… ’cause we were new…get it?). And regarding the anti-performance thing, we definitely did this at times. (Lots of actual shoegazing, lots of being hunched over, often in front of an amp).

    There was a particularly on-point example. Our drummer got us booked into a show, and we realized about 2.5 seconds after showing up that we just did not fit the line-up, the venue or the crowd. It was all hard rock/pseudo-metal bands (kind of Nickelback-esque, but not that bad), and there seemed to be a gathering of the jocks from the local college (we were decidedly not college age and three of us were very much not jocks).

    So, we decided before we went on that we wouldn’t talk to the crowd. Our singer may have said “goodnight” at the end, that was it.

    Our final song ended with an extended instrumental section… which led all of us to leaning over in front of our amps for a minute or two. The crowd was not into it, and with our apathy and disdain for the show, crowd and venue* we didn’t care… in fact we reveled in our disdain.

    My wife was less impressed with our openly surly performance, as she had to stand there as we ignored the audience and played with our asses facing the crowd. She was quite annoyed with us.

    *Before we went on, a girl vomited right in front of the stage… one of the staff put a cloth over it in lieu of actually cleaning it up.Report

    • Glyph in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

      re: “nugaze”. I forget who said it, but back when “chillwave” was a thing, someone snarked that, after years of effort, journalists might have finally come up with a stupider term than “shoegaze”.Report

      • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

        worse than intelligent dance music? (as tongue in cheek as its origins may have been)

        anyway, this: ““Never Understand” sounds like a Beach Boys record being played on a table saw).”

        great description.Report

  6. veronica dire says:


    Seriously, MBV and Lush kept me sane as young thing who didn’t know she was trans — and not surprisingly a lot of girls-like-me have similar experiences. (Well, second to the number of us who were uniformly into Kate Bush — but that’s a whole nother chapter.)

    The Shoegaze gender hack was really deep and interesting, and not so much in your face, so it could slip in when I was more resistant to blatant gender-bending (since one’s unconscious mind must work hard to hide stuff, when in the closet).

    But yeah, in my heart I knew this was where I belonged: dreamy, churning, and girlish.Report

    • Glyph in reply to veronica dire says:

      Oh thank god. When I was writing this (as I may have mentioned, I pull all these music posts pretty much directly out of my rear – I have only a tiny bit of any formal musical training, and none at all in gender theory) I was really hoping that I wasn’t getting that part totally wrong. I hoped/feared you’d set me straight (no pun intended) if I was.

      But yeah, it makes sense to me that music which is deliberately turbulent/androgynous would appeal. (That particular androgynous characteristic of the music also probably has some roots in the particular club/drug scene of the day; but that’s another story).

      This seems apropos:


    • Glyph in reply to veronica dire says:

      Forgot to add: people forget that MBV started out as a crappy goth band. Glam begat goth, and we know that both those scenes are OK with gender-bending.

      I also read an interview with Lush years ago, where they mentioned that they had started out as a riot grrl band, before discovering that they just weren’t very good at it. Again, I assume some of those politics carried forward with them (no politics!)Report