:: Article

‘Like A Daydream’

By Andrew Stevens.

Various, Like a Daydream: a Shoegazing Guide, Sanctuary, 2006

It’s fair to say that ‘shoegazer’, though worn as a badge of pride by many or treated as an article of faith even, has managed to remain true to its early 1990s origins as an insult over the past few years. Only recently has a successful rehabilitation been in evidence, throughout the Britpop era and whatever you want to call what we’re in the middle of right now, shoegazing was routinely held up as a badge of all that was wrong with British music before either of those came along ‘to save us all’. Parochial, introspective, downtrodden, boring even, shoegazing was simply too dull and lacking in verve to fit into any particular agenda, with its adherents retreating into obscurity or, worse still, the internet. Of course, this is only half the story. Matters were not helped by one Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, perfectionist extraordinaire, whose hiatus might have aided Primal Scream in delivering several knock-out albums (witness his absence from their latest), yet did little to keep the music press interested. Lush did try their hand at Britpop on their 1996 effort Lovelife, but the suicide of drummer Chris Acland (reportedly for economic reasons) hastened their demise, leaving no other act of note to try and forge ahead (scene mainstays Ride had already folded by this point).

Fast forward to 2006 and there’s not only a new generation of copycats (Amusement Parks on Fire and Engineers, I’m looking at you here) but even bigger acts who shamelessly plunder back catalogues, The Raveonettes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club to name just a couple. It’s no longer socially awkward to refer to oneself as a ‘shoegazer’ either, just look at who nights like London’s ‘Sonic Cathedral’ attract as DJs. That’s right, shoegazing spoken of as a religion. And of course, religion leads to schisms and fundamentalists. Who counts as a shoegazer? Aren’t they just ‘indie’ etc? Which brings me firmly on to the record at hand, Like A Daydream, a shoegazing anthology. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad someone had the initiative to do it and that there’s even a market for it now, but as with any compilation you can pull apart the inclusions and bemoan what didn’t make it (and so would others if you’d done it yourself). It opens with the title track, ‘Like A Daydream’ by Ride, which instantly spells out what made the shoegazer genre so attractive to people across the world (I’ve been to Brazil and met people who dream of making Ride-related pilgrimages to Oxford) — driving guitars, excessive fuzz, sweet vocals. ‘Pearl’ by Chapterhouse, for my money the defining track of the genre and veering in the opposite direction to the track it follows, is another non-negotiable inclusion. But key tracks (Boo Radleys?) are omitted while ones by Bleach, Blind Mr Jones and Moose make it. Catherine Wheel should never have ever been allowed near a recording studio in my opinion, but they do get on here. ‘Any Way That You Want Me’ is one of the best records to ever leave a recording studio but Spiritualized were effectively the inspiration behind the scene as Spacemen 3, not exactly peers of what followed. And there’s also an astonishing lack of background context for the neophyte as well — My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and the Jesus and Mary Chain are nigh on essential to get what actually followed.

Of course, these are just the bitter ramblings of a 30-something and there’s probably a guy twice my age somewhere who still thinks Lenny Kaye was wrong to include some track or other on Nuggets. But when it all comes down to it, will this album be able to persuade the nay-sayers that the genre was more than just some sullen kids from the Thames Valley messing around with effects peddles? Somehow I doubt it.

Andrew Stevens is contributing editor to 3:AM and lives in London.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, August 31st, 2006.