If you haven’t heard, this new Peel Dream Magazine album is something else. If we’ve learned nothing in the last 10-15 years of the ongoing shoegaze revival it is that mimicking the shoegazy wall of sound is easy, but really it’s all a bout the tunes.That’s the hard part. Not for Peel Dream Magazine, they have a cart load of them on their new album Agitprop Alterna.
The band seem to have two primary references, My Bloody Valentine and Stereolab and songs bounce between those influences. For example Pill evokes early Isn’t Anything era MBV and in my on pinion surpasses it. Then the next song Emotional Devotion Creator switches on some Stereolab droning keyboards. It’s a good kind of whiplash that has you at first spotting the influence but you quickly move into head-shaking disbelief about how good it is. Every song creates a warm cocoon of buzzy vibrations, droning keyboards and sighing vocals that ping pong around each other and collide at that sweet spot somewhere in the inner ear.
It wasn’t always this way. That first Peel Dream Magazine album Modern Meta Physic from a couple years ago showed some promise, but took some effort to get through. Last year’s Up and Up EP saw the group adding members and a sharper pop sensibility. Bands grow up fast these days, and Peel Dream Magazine second LP sees them moving quickly from pimply adolescents to seasoned blissed-out, ecstasy-laden dream-pop beasts.
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.
Shoegaze bands are a dime a dozen these days which is something I never would have predicted 20 years ago. So the genre lost the battle but apparently won the war, but sometimes the victors get a little cocky. Originally a derogitory term, bands now brandish that tag willy nilly without sometimes knowing what they’re talking about. One of the first and foremost things about the OG shoegaze was that at its heart there were always great songs. It wasn’t just noise. It was verses and big choruses. Bands actually wrote songs first and then bent their tremelo bars around them, instead of many of today’s poseurs who bend their guitars around nothing much.
There was a method of songs first reverb second. Baltimore’s Wildhoney adhere to that tried and true approach. Their debut album Sleep Through It is one of the best albums to come out in the shoegaze genre (or any other genre for that matter) in a while. This quintet of youngsters lean in direction of the more ethereal regions, looking to the Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. The influences may be easy to spot, but they take them and make something slightly different, brighter and alluring. Fall In and Molly belong on any best of shoegaze mix. Their two previous singles (Seventeen and a re-recorded Super Stupid) make welcome curtain calls as well. They even throw in an instrumental tribute to Flying Saucer Attack. These kids know how to deliver quality noise drenched pop with a sense of history and an ear for melody. Do not miss!
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!
The Laurels out of Halifax contain members from Monomyth and Moon. That doesn’t really help though. They sound a bit like the 90’s noisy indiepop of the Swirlies and the Lilys. Not surprising since they admit to being ispired by that scene along with Beach Boys,Byrds and C-86. Their self-titled bandcamp album has elements of all of the above as well as a sublime ode to Joao Gilberto thrown in for good measure. Crazy that bands this good are just giving away their music!
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.
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