I’m Getting Old (3): The Revival of a Musical Style I’m OK With

22 03 2009

I am perfectly happy to enjoy something that is not enjoyed by more than a few other people here and there.  I loved seeing Peter Jackson and his team win Oscars, but in the end, it matters not to me whether something I love is a massive hit or not.  If anything, living in the age of the geek as lucrative and reliable demographic has soured my enthusiasm and understanding of a particular breed of fellow geeks, that of the emotionally needy fanboy.  Not to say I’m not, but I was always after emotional approval from other human beings for my words and deeds, not my tastes in media.  The thrill of hanging out with people who share some of those tastes has always been good, but I’ve never expected either to have friends who share each and every interest, nor have I craved the approval of the mainstream.  In fact, I cannot remember ever wanting to be part of it, ever.  Niche is, has been, and hopefully will continue to be, more interesting than the majority of that which needs a wide demographic and large returns to be created in the first place.

Given all this, it would come as no surprise to most that my favourite musicians either influenced or have been part of the critically-maligned, short-lived early 90s UK musical style referred to as “shoegazing”.  I own the complete discographies of The Church and The House of Love on a mix of original and re-mastered CDs, with some period vinyl dotted around.  I would qualify R.E.M.’s early, best period – summarised in The I.R.S. Years compilation – as arguably an influence, as well as Eno/Lanois-produced U2 of the same period.  Jangly guitars and Byrdsian harmonies from the UK and US would also figure in the mix – listening to the likes of The Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen from the UK, Guadalcanal Diary and drivin’ ‘n’ cryin’ from the U.S., while everyone else at university was grooving to the hip and the high from the Madchester scene – Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, The Charlatans, Inspiral Carpets – I continued on in my terminally unhip, resolutely unfashionable way, falling in love with a group of bands who would then arrive, burn bright and then burn out, as Brit-pop took indie into the mainstream:  My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Slowdive, Ride, Curve.  The entire period has been compiled, with the usual high skill exhibited for two decades, by U.S. label Rhino, on the first two discs of The Brit Box, a lavish 4-disc set covering UK indie music of the 80s and 90s, and well worth your time to anyone who loves this period and type of music.  A couple of major ommissions aside – no Slowdive?! – this is the best time I’ve had with an album until I found Otis Taylor’s certified trance blues.  Although for an alternative view, it is definitely worth reading former Melody Maker writer Simon Reynolds’ review of the set here – he provides interesting context that begs a few questions as to why a South African Indian like myself loves this music.

I only mention all of this because, listening to 6 Music, I came across a Swedish band reviving these sounds, and doing it in the kind of lovely fashion I find addictively listenable.  They’re called Sad Day For Puppets, and they’re currently on tour around Europe.  The current UK single is Marble Gods/Big Waves, and listening to their other tracks on MySpace is liking taking a trip back in time – DJing on University Radio Falmer, getting to grips with the beginnings of adult life, and making a right hash of it too.  Weird, the things one can get nostalgic for.  Anyway, enjoy the tunes – I’m off to get the debut album and early singles, collecting a new band the way I used to.

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2 responses

23 03 2009
Martin

I quite like the Sad Day for Puppets on first listen – I’ll give it a more thorough investigation on last.fm (on of the best sites…ever) later.

I was about the right age to appreciate the Britpop scene because I was at high school during the mid 90s but for some reason I found myself getting into the Seattle and shoegaze stuff later on, as if I was trying to catch up on stuff that I’d been too young to catch onto the first time around (namely, I was too young to work a part time job and buy the CDs!).

I hope it’s of some comfort to you, but the old bands are still going – I was fortunate enough to see MBV on their comeback tour last year – assuming that follow-up to Loveless ever sees the light of day it’s as if they never went away. After a couple of hours of feedback, fuzz and desperate fumbles in pockets for earplugs, it was as if the last sixteen years hadn’t happened.

I think there could be a bit of a resergence of the shoegaze/dreampop/ambient scene – I’ve heard good things about the likes of the Sonic Cathederal and Club AC30 ‘nu-gaze’ events, and there are bands like 65Days of Static and God is an Astronaut who seem to take the idea a bit further. There was a student band starting up when I was at uni in Norwich called Sennen (see what they did with the name!) who have gone on to put out a couple of really good albums.

I’ll have to look into the Brit Box though…some great nostalgia lurking in there!

23 03 2009
hughkdavid

See, I did the same thing from about 1985 through to 1995 – if I got into a band or sound, I’d go back, try and check out the whole career, the scene they were from, etc. I’m just as OCD about film and tv. Researching the above piece, I was surprised by how many bands I like are still around, still gigging and recording – drivin”n’cryin’ being the biggest shock. I’m glad younger musicians are taking the creative threads forward – I really felt like that particular style just got wiped out by the arrival of Britpop, before the bands could finish exploring the possibilities.

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