(also known as shoegaze
) is a genre of alternative rock
that emerged from the United Kingdom
in the late 1980s. It lasted until the mid 1990s, peaking circa 1990 to 1991. The British music press (notably NME
and Melody Maker
) called this genre "shoegazing" because the musicians in these bands often maintained a motionless performing style, standing on stage and staring at their effects pedals or the floor while playing their instruments; hence, the idea that they were gazing at their shoes. The shoegazing sound featured extensive use of guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blended into the creative noise of the guitars. Few shoegazers were dynamic performers or interesting interviewees, which prevented them from breaking through into markets in the United States
. A lump description given to shoegaze bands in London in the early 1990s was "The Scene That Celebrates Itself
." In the 1990s, shoegaze groups were pushed aside by the likes of American grunge and Britpop
, forcing bands to breakup or evolve into a different style. Recent times have seen a renewed interest in the genre, among so-called "nu-gaze" bands.
Common musical elements in shoegaze are distortion (aka "fuzzbox"), 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. 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. The term was picked up by the New Musical Express, 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 bands first labelled as "shoegaze" 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
, and the "shoegaze" label has more recently been applied to My Bloody Valentine themselves. Other artists that have been identified as influences on shoegazing include The Velvet Underground
, Sonic Youth
, Hüsker Dü
, Spacemen 3
, Dinosaur Jr
, The Jesus and Mary Chain
, the Cocteau Twins
, The Cure
, and Galaxie 500
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 summer 1992 U.S. tour featuring MBV, Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo raised the genre's profile in the States considerably.
"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 genre label was quite often misapplied. Key bands such as Ride, Chapterhouse
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
The BBC's John Peel was a relentless supporter of the shoegaze scene; most U.K. bands of the genre recorded "Peel Sessions" before even releasing an album.
The shoegaze style is related to a genre that had existed since the mid 1980s, known as dream pop
. Dream pop was a more ambient and abstract take on folk and pop music. It was pioneered by 4AD
acts, such as Cocteau Twins
, A R Kane
and This Mortal Coil
, who took advantages of the improvements in studio technology in the previous decades to create a new strain of pop music with a hazy, ethereal sound. Highly respected ambient musicians
like Harold Budd
and Brian Eno
have collaborated with dream pop acts (on The Moon and the Melodies
respectively), which serves to highlight the genre's connection with ambient music. The genre proved to be highly influential on the shoegazing scene that emerged in the early nineties, and certain acts straddle the two styles, though shoegaze can be distinguished by its noisier, psychedelic sound.
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. 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
. 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, alienating many fans; the 1996 suicide of their drummer led to Lush's dissolution and served as a symbolic nail in the coffin of what was the shoegazing genre's original era. 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 the band's silence with "I never could be bothered to make another record unless I was really excited by it".
Slowdive eventually morphed into the country-infused Mojave 3
, 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
albums under the moniker Toshack Highway
Going "unplugged" has become a popular route to take for former lead singers of shoegaze bands: Gardener, Franklin, Ashcroft, Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel, and Slowdive/Mojave 3, have all reinvented themselves as acoustic troubadours.
Jesu, Asobi Seksu,, Maps Silversun Pickups, Apollo Heights, Airiel, Van She, and M83 also borrow heavily from the shoegaze movement.
Use of electronic manipulation
There is another thread of shoegaze-influenced music which maintains the emphasis of texture (through the use of guitar effects pedals and digital signal processing
) but departs, to some degree, from the rock structures and full-band instrumentation of shoegaze music. Also, there are little to no vocal elements. This “post-shoegaze” glitch
and experimental electronic music has achieved some critical praise, especially releases Televise
and Tim Hecker
. Also aspects of Seefeel, late-era Flying Saucer Attack
, The Third Eye Foundation
, Pacific UV
, Oppressed by the Line
, and M83
have explored this territory as well in the mid-'90s and beyond.
Often using the digital studio of a computer, these artists focus much attention on creating spacious atmosphere. The outcome tends to be compositions ranging from ambient stretches of droning tones, distorted walls of sound, and reverb-laden atmospherics. What separates this from other strands of glitch or noise compositions and places it in the realm of shoegaze, are the inclusion of melodies that call to mind pop and rock music.
Online Shoegaze Radio Stations
Selected bands and events in the genre:
TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal format:yyyy
ImageSize = width:800 height:350
PlotArea = width:750 height:300 bottom:20 left:20
BackgroundColors = canvas:canvas
Period = from:1981 till:2004
ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:1 start:1984 gridcolor:grid1
at:1985 color:grid2 layer:back
at:1991 color:grid2 layer:back
- set defaults
width:25 fontsize:M textcolor:black align:left anchor:from shift:(10,-4) color:bars
from:1983 till:1997 text:"Cocteau Twins"
at:1983 text:"1983: Head Over Heels released by Cocteau Twins"
from:1984 till:1999 text:"The Jesus & Mary Chain"
at:1984 text:"1984: Upside Down / Vegetable Man released by The Jesus & Mary Chain"
at:1985 text:"1985: Psychocandy released by The Jesus & Mary Chain"
from:1984 till:1994 text:"My Bloody Valentine"
at:1988 text:"1988: Isn't Anything released by My Bloody Valentine"
at:1991 text:"1991: Loveless released by My Bloody Valentine"
from:1987 till:2000 text:"Bailter Space"
from:1987 till:1994 text:"Chapterhouse"
at:1991 text:"1991: Whirlpool released by Chapterhouse"
from:1988 till:1996 text:"Ride"
at:1990 text:"1990: Nowhere released by Ride"
from:1988 till:1998 text:"Lush"
at:1992 text:"1992: Spooky released by Lush"
from:1989 till:1995 text:"Slowdive"
at:1991 text:"1991: Just For a Day released by Slowdive"
at:1993 text:"1993: Souvlaki released by Slowdive"
from:1989 till:1999 text:"The Verve"
at:1993 text:"1993: A Storm In Heaven released by The Verve"
from:1990 till:2001 text:"Catherine Wheel"
at:1991 text:"1991: Ferment released by Catherine Wheel"
from:1990 till:1999 text:"Swervedriver"
from:1991 till:1995 text:"Medicine"
at:1992 text:1992: Shot Forth Self Living'' released by Medicine