Thursday, June 25, 2015

Curve, Lush And The Shoegazer Music Boom of 1991-1992

I might be in the minority but I always liked shoegazer music, which really was alternative music back in the early 1990s.  Terms of feedback guitars, straight ahead beats and words that nobody could make out what they were saying.  My Bloody Valentine might be considered the best of the shoegazers but that is debatable.  Jesus And Mary Chain could be considered the pioneers of shoegazer  music but that's also terms of discussion. Even The Stone Roses are considered shoegazers although they're more Brit Pop than MBV.

In the scope of shoegazer, Ride to me offered the best of this type of music.  While critics call Nowhere their best album, Going Blank Again is their classic to these ears.  The continuing swirl of sounds on Leave Them All Behind is the best indication that you could get lost in the noise.  Still, it seems that Ride got tired of this sound and tried to venture out into different directions with Carnival Of Light before ending their career as purveyors of guitar rock on the forgotten Tarantula and broke up, Andy Bell moving on to Hurricane #1 before joining Oasis.  The longest lasting of these bands, The Charlatans UK started as Madchester  beats, which is part of Shoegazer music and their first two albums Some Friendly and Between 10th And 11th were part of the original alternative radio before Corporations like Clear Channel turned that into Modern Rock but even they got tired of Shoegazer and with Steve Hillage producing changed course with Up To Our Hips and eventually The Charlatans became the modern Rolling Stones, the highlight Tellin Stories before losing their keyboard player in a auto accident and their drummer in 2013 from cancer.  The lesser known The Darkside made two shoegazer albums that borderline more on psychedelia of the 60s rather than the Madchester sounds of The Charlatans UK. All That Noise, shows The Darkside's fondness of The Velvet Underground. The Seeds  and The Charlatans (US Version that is), but perhaps their shining moment was the 9:52 song Rise from their final album Melomania.  Out of all the shoegazer bands The Darkside were the most trippiest.  Fellow labelmates The Dylans may have bit more straight ahead rock and roll, like The Stone Roses, their best moment was the dreamy Godlike from their first album.  And like the Stone Roses, The Dylans couldn't build upon their first album, Spirit Finger finding them spinning their wheels and poor sales and indifference and the band was no more.

Which leaves us with the Inspiral Carpets, a band best known with a organ sound similar to The Doors. They started out pretty good with the almost hour long Life, but each album was less and less interesting.  Picking up their best of is the better buy, like The Doors The Carpets could get very wordy and lose focus, which makes getting The Very Best Of Inspiral Carpets the best deal, but I'll stand by Life as probably the only Inspiral Carpets album you would ever want to own.

Perhaps the best shoegazer bands were the ones lead by women. Although fans and critics have spoken highly of Slowdive, I wasn't impressed with the album that I heard, they reminded me of a noisy Cowboy Junkies.  Lush on the other hand started out as a shoegazer type of band. Led by Miki Berneyi's breathy vocals and the songwriting  and backing singing of Emma Anderson, their debut album Spooky and the EP collecting Gala are perfect examples of shoegazer dream pop. They recorded for 4AD, one of the top alternative labels out there in the early 90s, home to The Pixies and Breeders as well.  It also helped that Robin Guthrie (Choctaw Twins) produced Spooky.  But unlike the Dylans, Lush followed Ride's trail and started making albums not so much shoe gazer but more alternative rock, with mixed results.  Split, like Ride's Carnival Of Light is Lush trying to find a new sound that will fit them better but not quite getting there yet.  Their final 1996 effort Lovelife, they went for a sound that was somewhat like Elastica, getting minor hits like Ladykillers and a duet with Pulp's Jarvis Crocker on Ciao. a disjointed version of Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra for the 90s. The record was probably their best seller but drummer Chris Acland's suicide ended Lush once and for all.   Their best of Ciao! captures most of their highlights.

Certainly the nosiest has to be Curve, who existed right in the middle of the shoegazer craze of 1991 and 1992 and perhaps the most related to My Bloody Valentine and Jesus And Mary Chain of noise music.  They made three albums for Charisma/Anxious,  Doppelganger, Pubic Fruit and Cuckoo. Led by Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia, they were produced by Flood and Alan Moulder, Moulder would greatly in the mixing of albums from Ride, if anybody gave Shoe Gazer music its sound, that would be Moulder.  Doppelganger takes a while getting going but toward the end of the album the angry guitars and looping drum tracks take hold on Wish You Were Dead and Fait Accompli, the latter track would be expanded and added on, as well as three EPs that comprised Pubic Fruit, to which like Gala from Lush, composes Curve to be a very noisy dance shoe gazer band. Cuckoo, as uneven as it is, still is remarkable, the title track one of their best overall songs.  Curve would later break up and then reunite through the years although I have not heard anything outside of Cuckoo.  Kevin Sheilds of MBV fame did play on their 2002 album.  Overall fact remains that while Curve may have been a noise band and their sound did base an influence on the more popular US band Garbage in the mid 90s that underneath the noisy guitar and blurred singing from Halliday, Curve, like Lush was a very good pop band.

By all accounts Shoe Gazer pretty much fell apart around 1992 when Nirvana and grunge took over the alternative airwaves although some bands did try to keep that sound going. Blind Mr. Jones put out Stereo Musicale on Cherry Red (Herb Cohen's Bizarre/Straight issued it two years later).  Blur started out as dance shoe gazer with Leisure but then Damon Albarn and company started writing Kinks influenced songs before changing gears with the Pavement tribute S/T album of 1998.  And Catherine Wheel  Frement album for Fontana is their most hypnotic album, with their classic Black Metallic, before they abandoned Shoe Gazer with a more mainstream modern rock album of Happy Days.  Ocean Colour Scene, late to the party, their 1992 S/T album probably the final noteworthy of the shoe gazer music as we knew it back then, before they went with a more soulful direction.  I'm sure I'm missing a few bands from all of this but these were the most noteworthy of bands.  But in any case The Shoe Gazer Music was perhaps the final music genre that I gave much thought about. Alternative Music today is nowhere near as varied as it was back in the early 90s.  But in any case, you really didn't need much thought into playing this music. Just hit the play button start the beat and let the music take you where it leads.

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