I do enjoy a good thematic playlist. Over recent weeks, BBC 6Music have been doing their own 'Back to the 90s/00s/10s' themed days, and they've been a good nostalgia trip. I recently posted about why I loved 2005 so much, and curated a playlist to accompany it — Something I very much enjoyed doing; researching albums, bands, digging out old photos and remembering what sort of person I was back then. So, I thought I'd do it again but this time, with a slightly different approach:
Shoegaze/Dream pop released between 1990 — 1995.
Now then, I was hardly old enough to be appreciating the music between those years, I turned 5 in April 1990. As the decade went on, I was only interested in one thing; football. I would spend all my pocket money on Merlin football stickers, those Corinthian figures with the big heads and would send letters to various clubs around the country to request a merchandise catalog as I was obsessed with football shirts. Music came later on.
Don't worry, this isn't going to turn into a post with loads of childhood photos of myself playing football.
I recently purchased the new reissue of Spiritualized's 1992 debut, Lazer Guided Melodies — part of The Spaceman Reissue Program, as J Spaceman (Jason Pierce) puts it, so I've have spent the last few weeks digging around the internet, listening to a whole host of new music from that period.
Household names such as Lush, Slowdive, my bloody valentine, Ride and Pale Saints have been on my radar for years. There are others like Chapterhouse that I'd heard of but simply never listened to, same goes for Swervedriver — who I only know of because they were signed to Alan McGee's Creation Records.
Then you have Verve (without the 'The'; this was added later on in the decade after a legal battle with a jazz label who were named Verve Records), who arguably released their best stuff in the early 90s. Before you carry on reading the rest of this, go hit play on their 1992 debut EP 'The Verve EP', which features tracks that weren't included on any future release. This, and their debut 'A Storm In Heaven', fit perfectly into the shoegaze genre of the time. Both spectacular.
A few years back, I read a very good article documenting a famed love triangle that Richard Ashcroft was caught up in, along with Spiritualized's Jason Pierce and his then girlfriend, and bandmate, Kate Radley. The article touches on the early days of both bands touring together, the secret marriage between Ashcroft & Radley, heroin use and the recording of Spiritualized's breakthrough album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space in 1997. It's worth the read.
Whilst digging around the internet for new bands and albums to listen to; there's a good list by Brooklyn Vegan on the best EPs of this time, I kept seeing a few names appear that I didn't really associate with the shoegaze movement of the early 90s. One of which was New York based band, Mercury Rev. Now, I'm a big fan of what Mercury Rev have put out over the years, but I will admit that there are a few holes (See what I did there?) in my collection. According to Last.fm, which has been tracking my music listens since 2006, I'd not listened to their first 2 albums; Yerself Is Steam (1991) and Boces (1993). The former being mentioned in a few articles that I've read.
Now that I've caught up, it's easy to see why their debut album made it onto so many Shoegaze/Noise-Dream Pop lists from the early 90s. When listened to alongside fellow US bands of the era such as, Loveliescrushing, Medicine, Drop Ninteens and Swirlies (all of whom I've discovered recently), it's obvious that this was the certain sound that America was contributing to the scene.
Another worthy contribution from the US is Methodrone by The Brian Jonestown Massacre. I'm a big fan of what Anton Newcombe is doing, and 26 years after the release of their debut album, it's good to see him staying true to his craft. Methodrone, in my opinion, sounds nothing like any of its predecessors. Dare I say it, it feels like the only album of theirs that contains any form of structure. Methodrone fits perfectly into the shoegaze scene, and is comparable to albums by the likes of my bloody valentine and Spacemen 3. What I love about BJM from the early part of their career, is their relentlessness at which they released music; 7 albums between 1995 — 1998 for example. These days, Anton Newcombe is the main driving force behind all new BJM releases, and works on all his musical output from his studio in Berlin.
Bringing things a little closer to home, Catherine Wheel was a name I stumbled across whilst researching more bands from this era. Hailing from Great Yarmouth, which is 3 miles from where I grew up, and led by Rob Dickinson (cousin of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson — I remember my uncle telling me about this years ago, but never bothered to care). The band struggled to sustain commercial success during their career but they did, however, record a John Peel session in 1991 and released 3 albums between 92—95. Frontman Rob has since left the music industry altogether, and is now running his own Porsche restoration business. Fair enough.
Britpop made all the headlines in the 90s, and will always be remembered for the likes of Suede, Pulp, Elastica... the battle for Number 1 between Oasis and Blur. Girl Power, Tony Blair, Euro 96, Mr Blobby, Titanic, The Big Breakfast, Eric Cantona, Geri Halliwell's dress... It was an iconic decade. But at the very beginning of it all, was a genre of music that often gets overlooked when the 90s are mentioned.
The playlist at the end of this post is by no means a 'Best of Shoegaze 90—95', it's simply a bunch of tracks from albums I've discovered over the last few weeks, tracks from albums I've had in my library for years, and a few Dream Pop tracks for good measure. Stick it on shuffle, and enjoy.
Until next time,
Take care. x