On Saturday night, the music world was shocked when the follow up to My Bloody Valentine's 1991 release Loveless dropped. MBV garnered so much excitement that it practically broke the Internet. With the recent rise of bands like the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls and A Place to Bury Strangers, shoegaze is back in the spotlight in the indie world. So where did this genre originate?
The term shoegazing was inspired by the introspective, outsider vibe that permeates the scene. Additionally, the shoegaze sound is created by guitarists using a myriad of effects pedals -- adding to the literal term of "shoegazing."
Shoegaze first rose to popularity in the UK in the late 1980s directly influenced by the new wave and goth bands of the decade. As it was a rejection of the stadium rock favored at the time, shoegaze music was not written about favorably in the music press. It wasn't about creating gargantuan U2-style performances but instead creating a sonic masterpiece by manipulating noise through the means of effects pedals and feedback.
My Bloody Valentine are often cited as the poster children for shoegaze with Loveless being a flawless example of the genre. Their contemporaries included Slowdive, Chapterhouse, Moose and Swervedriver. In 1992, shoegaze lost its reign in Britain when Britpop stormed the music charts. The Britpop bands were loud and exciting. They borrowed heavily from the garage rock bands of the '60s and were far more accessible. Bands like Lush, the Verve and Ride originally began as shoegaze groups but adopted a Britpop sound in the mid-90s.
Despite being ousted from the charts in the early 90s, the shoegaze scene continued to thrive. American bands like Swirlies and Lilys picked up the sound. Sweden produced the Radio Dept. Czechoslovakia gave us the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (though the mid-90s saw them trade in shoegaze for ambient electronic music).
Shoegaze isn't a sound for everyone. Its critics are quick to note that a lot of shoegaze sounds just like noise. While this is partially true, it's important to note the multiple layers that go into these types of recordings. Sure, on the surface you hear fuzzy guitars and feedback but melodic vocals and synth riffs are also widely incorporated. There's a lot going on in shoegaze music.
If dreamy, syrupy music is your thing look no further than bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Chapterhouse.
Check out Kayley's YouTube crash course in shoegaze here.