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Stylistic origins
Cultural origins
Mid-late 1980s, United Kingdom
Typical instruments
Mainstream popularity Low in the early and mid 1980s but gradually increasing since the late 80s into the early 90s; mostly underground since then.
Fusion genres
Regional scenes
The Scene That Celebrates Itself
Other topics
List of artists

Shoegazing (also known as shoegaze or shoegazer) is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. It lasted until the mid 1990s with a critical zenith reached in 1990 and 1991. The British music press—particularly NME and Melody Maker—named this style shoegazing because the musicians in these bands maintained a motionless persona during live performances; they stood on stage and stared at their effects pedals or the floor, hence the idea that they were gazing at their shoes.[1]

The shoegazing sound is typified by significant use of guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blended into the creative noise of the guitars.[1] A lump description given to shoegaze and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. In the 1990s, shoegaze groups were pushed aside by the American grunge movement, forcing the relatively unknown bands to break up or reinvent their style altogether.[1] Recent times have seen a renewed interest in the genre among "nu-gaze" bands.


[edit] Style, roots, and influences

Once dubbed 'the scene that celebrates itself,' the term 'shoegaze' was christened in late-'80s England to describe a group of bands who combined ethereal, swirling vocals and layer upon layer of distorted, bent and flanged guitar. Ultimately, it referred more to these floppy-haired bands' lack of rock'n'roll antics on-stage—their habit of gazing downward at their myriad guitar pedals—than their music. While hazy and narcotic-sounding, the bands that fell under this banner were far from homogeneous. If anything, their common link was expanding the sonic vocabulary—if not always at MBV's deafening levels.[2]

Common musical elements of shoegazing consist of distortion, droning riffs and a "wall of sound" from noisy guitars. Typically, two distorted rhythm guitars are played together to give an amorphous quality to the sound. Although lead guitar riffs were often present, they were not the central focus of most shoegazing songs.

Vocals are typically subdued in volume and tone, but underneath the layers of guitars is generally a strong sense of melody. However, lyrics are not emphasized; vocals are often treated as an additional instrument.[2] While the genres which influenced shoegazing often used drum machines, shoegazing more often features live drumming.

The name was coined in a review in Sounds of a concert by the newly-formed Moose in which singer Russell Yates read lyrics taped to the floor throughout the gig.[3] The term was picked up by the NME, who used it as a reference to the tendency of the bands' guitarists to stare at their feet—or their effects pedals; seemingly deep in concentration, while playing. Melody Maker preferred the more staid term The Scene That Celebrates Itself, referring to the habit which the bands had of attending gigs of other shoegazing bands, often in Camden, and often moonlighting in each other's bands:

The shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia the band performed was dubbed shoegazing by the British press because the bandmembers stared at the stage while they performed.[4]

The term was sometimes considered derisory, and disliked by many of the groups it purported to describe,

Shoegazing was originally a slag-off term. My partner [K.J. "Moose" McKillop], who was the guitarist in Moose, claims that it was originally leveled at his band. Apparently the journo was referring to the bank of effects pedals he had strewn across the stage that he had to keep staring at in order to operate. And then it just became a generic term for all those bands that had a big, sweeping, effects-laden sound, but all stood resolutely still on stage. - Miki Berenyi[2]

The most commonly cited precursors to shoegazing are Cocteau Twins[5][6] , The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. But common musical threads between the different bands include garage rock, '60s psych, and American indie bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.[2]

The bands first to attract the "shoegazing" label (Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, Slowdive and Moose) were largely influenced by My Bloody Valentine, and emerged in the wake of their breakthrough in 1988 with the "You Made Me Realise" single and the album Isn't Anything,[7][5] and the "shoegaze" label has more recently been applied to My Bloody Valentine themselves.[8] Other artists that have been identified as influences on shoegazing include The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, Spacemen 3,[9] The Cure, Bauhaus,[8] Galaxie 500,[10] and The Smiths.[2]

Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life cites an early 1990s Dinosaur Jr tour of the United Kingdom as a key influence. While not classified as a shoegazing band, Dinosaur Jr did share a tendency to blend poppy melody with loud guitars and laconic vocals. A lengthy 1992 U.S. tour featuring My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo raised the genre's profile in the US considerably.

[edit] History

[edit] The Scene That Celebrates Itself

The first stirrings of recognition came when indie writer Steve Lamacq referred to Ride in a review for the NME as "The House of Love with chainsaws". The shoegazing genre label was quite often misapplied. Key bands such as Ride, Chapterhouse and Slowdive emerged from the Thames Valley and as such Swervedriver found themselves labelled shoegazers on account of their own Thames Valley origins - despite their more pronounced Hüsker Dü-meets-Stooges stylings. A lump description given to shoegaze and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself.[11]

[edit] Decline

The coining of the term "The Scene That Celebrates Itself" was in many ways the beginning of the end for the first wave of shoegazers. The bands became perceived by critics as over-privileged, self-indulgent and middle-class.[2] This perception was in sharp contrast with those bands who formed the wave of newly-commercialised grunge music which was making its way across the Atlantic, and those bands who formed the foundation of Britpop, such as Blur, Suede, Oasis and Pulp.[12] Britpop also offered intelligible lyrics, often about the trials and tribulations of working-class life; this was a stark contrast to the "vocals as an instrument" approach of the shoegazers, which often prized the melodic contribution of vocals over their lyrical depth. Lush's final album was an abrupt shift from shoegazing to Britpop, which alienated many fans; the 1996 suicide of their drummer signaled Lush's dissolution. Nothing has surfaced from My Bloody Valentine since Loveless until their reunion tour in 2008. Plans for a new album have been confirmed, with frontman Kevin Shields explaining their silence by noting, "I never could be bothered to make another record unless I was really excited by it."[13]

[edit] Post-movement directions

Slowdive eventually morphed into the country-infused Mojave 3, and the dreampop Monster Movie while other shoegaze bands either split or moved in other directions. The Verve (at the time known simply as "Verve") went more towards mainstream rock on their 1997 album Urban Hymns, before singer Richard Ashcroft went solo. Mark Gardener and Loz Colbert of Ride released an album as The Animalhouse; in 2006, Gardener's first solo album was released. Several former members of shoegazing bands later moved towards post-rock and the more electronica-based trip hop. Adam Franklin of Swervedriver released lo-fi albums under the moniker Toshack Highway.

Recent times have seen a renewed interest in the genre among "nu-gaze" or newgaze bands.[14] Several recent bands, including Longwave,[12] Maps,[12] Van She,[15] M83,[2],Asobi Seksu[2] and My Vitriol borrow heavily from the earlier shoegazing bands.

[T]he incorporation of electronic dance elements into certain albums -- Slowdive toyed with ambient effects on their home-recorded Pygmalion; bands like Chapterhouse, James, and Seefeel was [sic] repeatedly remixed by electronic artists -- presaged later developments in post-rock and electronica.[2]

[edit] See also

[edit] Shoegaze timeline

Selected bands and events in the genre:

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c All Music: Genre: Shoegaze. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Patrick Sisson, "Vapour Trails: Revisiting Shoegaze", XLR8R no. 123, December 2008
  3. ^ Larkin, Colin (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Indie and New Wave Music. Square One. pp. 188. ISBN 0-85112-579-4. 
  4. ^ Erlewine,Stephen Thomas. "[1]". Retrieved on February 7, 2009.
  5. ^ a b Allmusic genre article on "Shoegaze"
  6. ^ " MBV, JAMC, Corgan, Coyne, Reznor in Shoegaze Doc" - Pitchfork Media article
  7. ^ Strong, Martin C. (1999). The Great Alternative & Indie Discography. Canongate. pp. 427. ISBN 0-86241-913-1. ""The full extent of their pioneering guitar manipulation - responsible for a whole scene of "shoegazing" musical admirers, stand up Ride, Moose, Lush etc., etc., ..."" 
  8. ^ a b The Muso: "Shoegazing - A Brief Overview"
  9. ^ Exclaim! Sound of Confusion article on Shoegaze Retrieved 22 September 2008
  10. ^ All Music: Portable Galaxie 500. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  11. ^ Lester, Paul (1992-09-12). "Whatever Happened to Shoegazing?" Melody Maker, p.6. Retrieved 12 April 2007 from Proquest Research Library.
  12. ^ a b c Jude Rogers talks to the pioneers of nu-gazing. | | Arts
  13. ^ "Kevin Shields: MBV Will "100%" Make Another Album". Retrieved on 16 January 2007. 
  14. ^ Smart, James (2005-06-13). "Review: Pop: Ambulance LTD: The Venue, Edinburgh 3/5." The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2007 from Lexis Nexis Academic.
  15. ^ The Blurb: Van She interview

[edit] External links

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