It’s funny, but shoegazing in the late eighties and early nineties was supposed to be a fad in British music, something that lasted as long as a teen crush. Taking as its sonic template sixties psychedelia, Goth, Cocteau Twins dreaminess and the melding of noise and beauty you could find in Sonic Youth’s ground-breaking mid -eighties album ‘EVOL’, it attained its name from critics because the guitarists tended to look down at their effects pedals when going for another disorienting squall of feedback.
This is the key to understanding the scene- it was both gorgeously dreamy and melodic, and a big old racket. Bands like Lush, Pale Saints, Moose, Ride and Slowdive made music that swooned as much as sounded like a punky howl into the void. And My Bloody Valentine forever cemented its sound with the classic ‘Loveless’, which bent guitar music into unique, sexy new shapes.
Androgyny, too, played a part- vocals were often pitched strangely, so it was hard to work out who was singing what, and that reverby, ambiguous kind of vocal is always sexy, isn’t it? The music press reviled as much as celebrated the genre, with London based bands being deemed, ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself’.
Who’s laughing now? Miki and Emma from Lush still make music, and bands like Beach House, Joanna Gruesome, Best Coast, Say Sue Me and gazillions more current artists still make music that soars as much as it strokes and scratches. You just can’t keep a floppy haired, romantic indie kid down, but I still refuse to call it ‘shoegaze’.