Despite producing some of the early 90s finest albums, shoegaze was frequently denigrated during its short-lived heyday. Initially a pejorative term used to describe the static performing styles of its introspective practitioners who were heavily reliant on effects pedals, shoegaze has evolved to become a celebrated genre, influencing the likes of Mogwai, Sigur Ros and a wide range of “nu-gaze” bands that have appeared since the 2000s.
Since the long-awaited return of My Bloody Valentine in 2013, interest in shoegaze been on the increase, opening the door for reunions by other key bands like Slowdive, Ride and Lush. In 2014 the first ever documentary about the genre and its cultural impact was released, titled Beautiful Noise. Given this revival of interest, the five disc compilation box-set Still In A Dream: A Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995 couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Containing a total of 87 tracks, as well as essays, band profiles and photographs, its curators have cast their net wide and dug very deep, covering not only the key bands and a host of lesser known ones, but also those who influenced and were influenced by the genre either side of its early 90s peak. It’s an expanded definition but nowhere does it claim to be the definitive guide, as seen in its subtitle stating it’s “A Story…” rather than “The Story…”
Typified by its melodic wall of sound approach, the roots of shoegaze are found in the noise rock and dream pop movements of the 1980s. It’s these influences which are contained on CD1, with two key inspirations in the form of The Jesus and Mary Chain and Cocteau Twins kicking things off. Accompanied by the likes of Spaceman 3, Galaxie 500 and A.R. Kane, it’s a superb start but sadly Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., two oft-cited key influences, are nowhere to be heard.
By far the biggest absence however is My Bloody Valentine, who are missing despite the compilation being named after one of their songs. No doubt Cherry Red did all they could to have shoegaze’s main pioneers included, but the one track per band approach ensures that any potential damage is limited. MBV likely would have appeared on CD2 alongside other well known bands that are featured including Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Chapterhouse, Swervedriver and The Boo Radleys.
CD3 highlights the more experimental side of shoegaze, featuring superb tracks by the likes of Moonshake, Moose and Spiritualized. While CD4 and CD5 showcase the impact the genre had outside the UK, with American bands like Swirlies, Flaming Lips, Medicine and Mercury Rev featuring. Despite the compilation running out of steam towards the end, it does a superb job of exhibiting shoegaze’s reach, particularly in terms of genres incorporated into it over the years with touches of grunge, goth, psych, indie, baggy, post-rock and even rap featuring.
Some may criticise Still In A Dream for being too inclusive, but it’s the journey of discovery which makes this compilation so worthwhile. Even old fans of the genre are likely to uncover something they’ve never heard before, which makes it the perfect place to start for any curious newcomers. Its wide ranging approach certainly destroys the old notion that shoegaze was merely “the scene that celebrated itself”.
Released: 29th January 2016
Genres: Shoegaze, Dream Pop, Noise Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, Neo-Psych
Label: Cherry Red
Rating: Strong 8 to a Light 9