This loose coupling (less popular trends like progressive rock were already Pond-assymmetric ) loosened further in the late ’80s. The already successful kraut rock-influenced Depeche Mode* became the premier British act in 1990 when “Violator” outgrew the American art f-g market. America's bellwether was folky, twangy R.E.M., at once a lot less gay than Depeche Mode (no equivalent to “People Are People”) and a lot more (having an actual gay man in the band).
In Britain, shoegaze was kicked off with:
- 1988 My Bloody Valentine, “Isn’t Anything”
- 1990 Ride, “Nowhere”
- 1991 My Bloody Valentine, “Loveless”
Critics loved to hate shoegaze, preferring instead the cheerful “misogyny” and violence of gangster rap, madly waving the Flag of Irony while also hating on hair metal (perfect). Rap, of course, is not Ironic but Heroic, but being a critic means never having to let reality stand you up so long as you have a curtain of words to hide behind.
A big hole exists for musicianship beyond the pentatonic scale and relentless improv.: jazz fusion; progressive rock; the Medieval tune-resurrecting; erudite folkies; even motion-picture soundtracks are still overwhelmingly orchestral. Shoegaze was accused of many things: class warfare; misogyny (emphasis on high art, distorted guitars and performance); misandry (a lush, emotional, wimmin-y sound); racism (it's not rap!). But shoegaze mostly was an attempt to fill that damned hole.
Enter this American shoegaze compilation. Most of the songs are indeed drenched in the echo, delay and reverb pedal effects that gave the genre its name. Malory’s lead track starts with almost a cliché of delay, but pretty. Secret Shine creates a dramatic sweep that makes me hang on for the next line. Glowfriends and The Flower Beds tender pop tunes; the former almost too Pop for this collection. In Civilian Clothing contributes a stand-out anti-love song. Finally, The Fauns provide a lush soundscape that melts into Sunlight Ascending’s six minute instrumental dreamscape.
It’s good stuff. All I could wish for would be a lyrics sheet. Track list:
- Malory, “Just Be”
- The Morning Paper, “Making You Up”
- Airiel, “Cinnamon”
- The Brother Kite, “The Finest Kind”
- Brief Candles, “National Dream Registry”
- Tears Run Rings, “Mind the Wires”
- Crash City Saints, “Panic Queen”
- Secret Shine, “Oblivion”
- The Joy Bus, “Something Wrong Inside”
- Je Suis Animal, “Sparkle Spit”
- Glowfriends, “Sensible”
- The Flower Beds, “Mean to Me”
- Panda Riot, “Flowers at Night”
- Soundpool, “Do What You Love”
- In Civilian Clothing, “Current Therapist”
- Thrushes, “Aidan Quinn”
- The Fauns, “Lovestruck”
- Sunlight Ascending, “Out of This Place”