Tags: Felt, My Bloody Valentine, Shoegaze, Sinis Recordings, Slowdive, Tender Age, Wildhoney
The first Tender Age single reminded me of Felt’s Ignite the Seven Cannons. it was methodically austere and moody. The Portland band are back with their second single that shows them tweaking things just a little to deliver a warmer and more ethereal sounding record. In other words they’ve turned up the shoegaze dials on the guitars. It’s still good, but different from their first single and veers into the same sonic territory as the Wildhoney album from earlier this year. It also begs the question, how many more records do I need to buy that sound like My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse and Slowdive? I guess one more wouldn’t hurt.
You get the vinyl or download from SINIS Recordings bandcamp page.
Tags: Mexican Summer, No Joy, So Pitted, Sunset Tavern, Versing
No Joy, So Pitted and Versing at the Sunset, Seattle | 10 June 2015
There’s a fine line to getting the ratio of guitar squall to ethereal vocals in the shoegaze genre just right.Up to this point No Joy had struggled to do it. On their third record they seem to have finally got it. More Faithful is their best record. It was produced by Jorge Elbrecht who is the guy behind Violens, Lansing-Drieden and has worked with Ariel Pink (He also produced their previous album to lesser effect). His M.O. is slick, well produced records that verge on the sterile. Montreal’s No Joy on the other hand like to let it bleed in the sense of blistering guitars that feedback so much that you struggle to make out the melodies. More Faithful is just the right blend of guitar, voice and studio gadgetry. It allows you to hear that No Joy write some pretty good songs. On some songs they barely use distortion or loudness opting instead to go in more dreampop route. This new direction is a good route and puts them into Cocteau Twins, Curve and A Sunny Day In Glasgow territory.
The band really seem like they’ve emerged as confident and competent shoegazers, so I was excited to see them play expecting them bring the dreamier aspects of their sound out live. What I got was something else entirely. No Joy played a set of white noise that made me wonder if it was not an entirely different band that recorded More Faithful. Obviously the new album is a studio record that the band either haven’t figured out how to play live or don’t want to recreate live. Each song essentially sounded the same. They would hit a couple buttons on their playback contraption to start the synth-based backing track from the studio and then they would blast white noise guitar feedback over it while singer Laura Lloyd apparently sang. I watched her mouth the words but rarely could I actually hear her voice. I think I recognized one song, but it was like seeing it through blast goggles. A truly disappointing performance that provided no joy.
Thankfully the opening acts were better. Seattle’s So Pitted sound like part OC surf punks and part hard core post-holocaust survivors. They make loud primal blasts of sound that you can nod your head to. The drummer and guitarist switch instruments and vocal duties. Their final song featured a guitar freak out that took place under the cover of one of those foil survivor blankets as if he had just been melted by the raygun of some malevolent outer space being. Brilliant!
Opening the night were Versing who were new to me, but I instantly liked their Swell Maps and Wire (also Seam and Pavement) inspired songs. It was the right combination of dissonant chords and plaintive vocals. I’m looking forward to hearing more from these guys in the future. They said that they’ve just finished recording and EP, in the meantime they have a demo and a KEXP session up on their Soundcloud page.
Tags: Humphreys By the Bay, Ride, San Diego, Shoegaze
Ride at Humphreys By the Bay, San Diego | 16 April 2015
As luck would have it, I was in San Diego for spring break during the dead week of Coachella to see the recently reformed Ride, OG shoegazers from Oxford. The dead week is the week between the two Coachella weekends where bands if they’re lucky book shows in San Francisco, San Diego, Pamona, or anywhere but Los Angeles due to contractual restrictions of playing that giant festival in the desert. Having lived in San Diego for 11% of my life I wasn’t completely surprised when I arrived to see that the venue was mostly empty. Shows that routinely sell out places like the Showbox or the Neptune here in Seattle barely fill the Casbah in San Diego which is about he size of the Sunset in Seattle. To be fair, there had been problems with buying advanced tickets through Ticketmaster up until a few days before the show. Humphreys By the Bay holds about 1500 and is a place that usually hosts acts like the Steve Miller Band, Chicago and Boz Scaggs. The venue is nestled in palm trees and sail boats on San Diego bay. I don’t think I’ve been to a nicer place to see a show.
Ride, having recently reformed, had only played a handful of shows prior to this one, but they were in top form. Unaffected by the poor turn out, the band still seemed be energized to be playing for the meager crowd that San Diego offered up. They opened the set with a surprise. Nowhere the title track from their 1990 debut album is a meandering song that closes the album and hadn’t been played yet at one of their reunion shows. It was nearly twice as long as its recorded version and acted as warm up for both band and crowd. It ebbed and flowed like the monster wave on the album cover, creating an ominous feel in among the palm trees that surrounded the venue. Andy Bell and Mark Gardner wove their guitars into surges and then let it go all hazy as the song washed over everyone. They quickly followed with Seagull which sent a burst of lightening into everything. Steve Queralt delivered that sinewy bass groove for everything to wrap itself around while Andy Bell playing a twelve string guitar and made everything go hallucinogenic.
The younger me was always enamored by the guitars of Bell and Gardener, but the older me realized that the reason Ride were so good on their first two albums was due to the drumming of Loz Colbert and Queralt’s bass. Loz resembles Stuart Copeland in his look and style. It’s an adrenaline filled delivery that hasn’t lost a step in 20 years. It’s almost like he’s playing to a different song sometimes, and he’ll seemingly pull the band into the breach with him. Queralt often-times was laying down a guitar like riff with his bass that propelled the songs while Bell and Gardener were left free to make their squalls of noise with no concern for melody thanks to him.
The set list was hard to argue with. They only played one post Going Blank Again Song (Black Night Crash) and hit nearly every highlight from Nowhere and Going Blank Again. I only wish they would have included one or two more from Nowhere like Decay, Polar Bear or Kaleidoscope. That’s a minor qualm when you consider that they played Dreams Burn Down, Taste, Vapor Trail, Chrome Waves, Leave Them All Behind, Chelsea Girl and Drive Blind.
I’m a big skeptic when it comes to reunion shows, but Ride were the real deal. Comparing it to when I saw them on the Going Blank Again tour back in 1992, I would say it was even. Sure, they lacked the youthful bravado of those heady days, and Gardener was missing his rock god locks and sported a fedora to hide the fact. I would argue that they are better musicians today with more attention to making the songs really crack. Bell was playing insane riffs that I doubt he was capable of back then. The rhythm section seemed to own every song, and Gardener’s voice was stronger which gave the often obscured melodies to the songs a bit more sheen than they ever had. During the finale of Drive Blind you could make out a giant grin across Mark Gardener fave. It used to be serious noise that Ride made, now it’s just fun, as it always should have been.
Cool Your Boots
Black Nite Crash
Dreams Burn Down
Time of Her Time
Leave Them All Behind
Tags: Australia, Day Ravies, Shoegaze, Strange Pursuits
Sydney’s Day Ravies followup last year’s stellar 7-inch with a four song EP they call Under the Lamp. It’s being released as a cassette and download by Strange Pursuits which is a brand new label started by Sam Wilkinson who sings and plays guitar in the band. The band say this is a teaser for their second album which they are working on. No word on whether any of these four songs will be on their next album, but based on how good they are I wouldn’t be surprised if all four of them make an appearance.
The four song EP starts with Sleepwalk which takes up right where Hickford Whizz left off last year and sees the Ravies continuing their more straightforward pop head rush. Perennial features a great chorus and a killer guitar solo that is brief but efficient and keeps with the song’s penny arcade psychedelia. Prior Hour the closer is the comedown from the pop highs of the previous three songs and has a slow burn melancholy to it that has touches of Mazzy Star in it. This EP and the Hickford Whizz single from last year should have folks lining up for the upcoming album number two.
Day Ravies’ Under the Lamp EP is available from Strange Pursuits.
Tags: Chapterhouse, Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Shoegaze, Slowdive, Swirlies, Wildhoney
After two singles that are as good as anything that came out during the the first generation of shoegazing, Baltimore’s ecstasy inducers Wildhoney are not taking their feet off of the pedals. The band is readying their debut album for release in January on Forward/Deranged Records. Fall In is the first song the band have released from the forthcoming Sleep Through It and it may be their best yet. The way singer Lauren Shusterich’s voice floats over the haze of guitars is otherworldly – part Liz Fraser, part Rachel Goswell. Wildhoney are without a doubt the new shoegaze royalty!
stream: Wildhoney – Fall In
Tags: Lilys, My Bloody Valentine, Shoegaze, Slowdive, Wildhoney
With all of the excitement surrounding the Slowdive reunion, you would think folks would be tempted to delve into some great shoegaze happening right now instead of 20 years ago. I don’t know what the future holds for Baltimore shoegazers Wildhoney. Will they be revered on 10 or 20 years? Who knows and who cares, because right now they are the hottest bunch of pedal loving, hallucination inducing, blistering guitar benders going today. Their second single came out recently on Photobooth records and dare I say, it bests last year’s debut. Seventeen has a slight ‘Funky Drummer” beat, maelstrom of guitars and angelic vocals, it’s part MBV, part Slowdive, and some Lilys. Folks, singles don’t get much better than this.
The band are planning a full length for later this year, and plan to tour the East Coast as well. In the meantime you can buy the physical old school 7-inch single from Photobooth Records or the download from the band themselves.
Tags: A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Crocodile, Dreampop, Kate Bush, Lefse, Review, Seattle, Shoegaze
A Sunny Day in Glasgow at the Crocodile, Seattle | 12 July 2014
A Sunny Day In Glasgow are not from any single place as the band’s six members are split between Philadelphia, New York and Sydney, but funny enough not Glasgow. They are also a very different band than the one that made Scribble Mural Comic Journal back in 2007. Ben Daniels is the only surviving member of that first album. Daniels is the band leader and writes most of the songs. His band’s fourth album Sea When Absent still sounds like a Sunny Day In Glasgow, but it is also is quite different.
Every good band evolves of course, and A Sunny Day in Glasgow have progressed from being an airy shoegaze band whose songs sometime floated by without anyone taking notice to a pop band with shoegaze roots with songs that capture your attention. Previously the vocals mostly consisted of a lot of sighing, but that has been drastically changed. Singers Anne Fredrickson and Jen Goma with their strong, passionate vocals power the band and are its focal point.
The Crocodile’s back bar was full for this early show on one of the sunniest and hottest days of the year. For the opening band Oh! Pears the garage door was up, keeping the place relatively cool. Unfortunately they pulled the door closed before the start of A Sunny Day In Glasgow causing the mercury to rise in the packed room (the pizza oven in the back didn’t help either). No matter, the band incorporated tribal rhythms, washes of guitars, subdued electronics and earnest and soulful vocals to send breezy waves of pleasure out into the room nearly making forget the beads of sweat.
The biggest change and best thing about the current incarnation of a Sunny Day in Glasgow is how they have rethought the vocals in their music. They still like a lot of guitars but Fredrickson and Goma both have strong voices and their performances last night made me think that this band could take shoegaze beyond the niche genre that it is. One of my nieces who likes stuff like Aaliyah, Kelly Rowland and Beyoncé often laughs at some of the music I listen to saying that they sigh instead of sing. Sunny Day in Glasgow aren’t sighing any more. They are making big pop songs that threaten to break into the mainstream.
Tags: Buffalo Tom, Cheatahs, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Ringo Deathstarr, Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub, Witchita Records
Cheatahs at the Tractor, Seattle | 23 February
There was a shoegazing dilemma this past Sunday night in Seattle for those of us with a penchant for music made using loads of guitar effects pedals. Option A was for the hot and cool brand of noisy tremolo pop of Austin’s Ringo Deathstarr at El Corazon, and the B option was London based grungy flannel clad gaze of Cheatahs over at the Tractor? Having already seen Ringo Deathstarr a few times I went for option B.
Cheatahs come from London, but the four guys in the band are from Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. Their debut self-titled album is just out on Witchita and follows up the Extended Plays record from last year that compiled their first couple EP’s. There are obvious similarities to Swervedriver in the same way that back in the 90’s Gene looked to the Smiths for inspiration. Like was the case with Gene, I’m sure that Cheatahs have their detractors for sounding too derivative, but when you’ve got the songs to back up your boast of sound it goes a long way in quieting any detractors. As loud as they are with their feet on the pedals they drown out the babble anyway. Beyond Swervedriver and some Dinosaur Jr, you can hear Teenage Fanclub and early Buffalo Tom. I’m not going to kid you, these guys are full on 90’s revivalists, but they make it fun and throw in some switch-ups to keep it interesting.
The show itself was a blast. It felt like I was at a Dino Jr or Swervedriver show 20 years ago. The two guitar players Nathan Hewitt and James Wignall slashed and dove around on stage and dialed up nebulous waves of feedback on every song. Fall may have been the highlight of the night with its My Bloody Valentine-like guitar refrain, but really every song was blisteringly good. Northern Exposure, Cut the Grass and Mission Creep were nothing to sneeze at either. All the songs revved at optimal RPM and at one point I pinched myself to make sure it was real. Realness was confirmed as I walked out of the Tractor with my ears ringing.
stream: Cheatahs – Fall (from Cheatahs out now on Witchita)
These are the remaining US tour dates for Cheatahs:
27 Feb, Los Angeles Echo
01 Mar, San Francisco Brick & Mortar Music Hall
01 Mar, San Francisco Amoeba Records
04 Mar, Brooklyn, NY Baby’s All Right
05 Mar, Philadelphia Boot & Saddle
06 Mar, Washington U Street Music Hall