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Shoegazing is a style of alternative rock that emerged in Ireland and the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. Isn't Anything by My Bloody Valentine, released in 1988 (see 1988 in music) is said to have defined the sound.


Technical definitions

Shoegazing is characterised by a self-deprecating, introspective, non-confrontational feel. Generally employed are distortion and the fuzzbox, droning riffs and a Phil Spector-esque wall of sound from the noisy guitars. Another way to describe the guitar effects would be "lead-guitarlessness", typically with two distorted rhythm guitars interweaving together and giving an exceptionally muddied sound. Although lead guitar riffs were often present, they were not the central focus of most shoegazing songs.

Vocals typically are subdued in volume and tone, but underneath the layers of guitars is often a strong sense of melody. While the genres which influenced shoegazing often used drum machines, shoegazing more often features live drumming. Chapterhouse utilised both samples and live drumming, while drummers such as Chris Cooper of Pale Saints and the late Chris Acland of Lush often displayed complex drum patterns

The name was coined by the New Musical Express, noting the tendency of the bands' guitarists to stare at their feet (or their effects pedals), seemingly deep in concentration, while playing. Some fans will argue another story, that shoegazing music was originally made with the intention of being listened to while taking heroin,[citation needed] and that the name refers to a passage from the book Naked Lunch. 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. The key record labels associated with the genre were Creation Records (My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive) and 4AD.


The Velvet Underground was often cited as a major influence, as the band had been on the C86 movement before it. Many of the bands eschewed the punk era altogether, although punk-era bands such as The Cramps, Pere Ubu and The Birthday Party proved influential in some cases, especially with the forerunners of the genre. However, artists such as The Jesus & Mary Chain and especially the Cocteau Twins and Spacemen 3 (and later Spiritualized) gave birth to the genre directly rather than through oblique influences.

Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life traces shoegazing to a Dinosaur Jr tour of the United Kingdom. While not generally classified as a shoegazing band, Dinosaur Jr did share a tendency to blend poppy melody with loud guitars. Early Boo Radleys tracks were firmly modelled on the first two Dinosaur albums.


"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". In the United States of America the music is sometimes now referred to as "dream pop".

The 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 (coincidental) Thames Valley origins - despite their more pronounced Hüsker Dü stylings. Curve were once described as "the exact point where shoegazer meets goth" and the genre did overlap with others to some extent. It was certainly the case that bands such as Blur, on occasion, adopted elements of shoegazing ('She's So High' for instance) on a purely commercial basis. The careers of Thousand Yard Stare and Revolver were caught up in a general backlash which affected the scene. In spite of this, bands like Chapterhouse, Ride and Slowdive ("the My Bloody Valentine Creation can afford" went one wry review) did leave behind several albums that on reflection have stood the test of time as indicative of 90s British indie.

Post movement directions

Slowdive eventually became the Mojave 3, while other shoegazing bands either split, or moved in other directions. Andy Bell of Ride, for example, later joined Oasis after his own Britpop project Hurricane #1 faltered. Several former members of shoegazing bands later moved towards post-rock and even trip hop.

Nu-gazing and current trends

After the initial first wave of bands whose careers petered out in the early 1990s, or moved in different directions, a number of bands such as Bethany Curve and Brian Jonestown Massacre were able to take inspiration from these groups and pursue new audiences. In recent years the NME has recently pointed out the shoegazing influence in a number of up and coming bands, which it has called "nu-gazing". Bands of this nature include Televise, Air Formation, Scarling., Autolux, Amusement Parks on Fire, The Radio Dept, Mahogany, Readymade, Los Sonidos Distantes, Joy Zipper, M83, Ulrich Schnauss, Oppressed by the Line, Heroes of Switzerland, Experimental Aircraft and Engineers, and most recently Serena Maneesh. The genre is very strong within its own ranks, much alluding to the ideal "the scene that celebrates itself." Clubs such as Club AC30 and Club Violaine, along with the support of such labels as The Gaia Project and Bella Union are supporting more and more dream-pop and shoegaze bands. There are many holdouts of devoted players and listeners on both sides of the Atlantic, and a strong following in South America.

The first two albums by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are influenced by shoegazing.

The genre, though derided to some extent by the music press at the time, has left something of a legacy, as the new crop of bands demonstrates. The last album by My Bloody Valentine, Loveless, released in 1991 is critically acclaimed to be the landmark album of shoegazing, with Ride's first album Nowhere seen as a close contender.

Timeline of shoegazing history

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Song samples

  • Mouse Trap (Ride) - A clear example of two rhythm guitars working together and giving a "muddied" and distorted guitar sound. Melodic singing is also present.

External links

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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