There’s no doubt that My Bloody Valentine’s impression on the modern musical landscape was significant back in 1991 when Loveless became the benchmark for all other releases categorised as shoegaze, and their impending return must have contemporary purveyors of the movement worrying for their live future: after all, who needs the deputy when the sheriff rolls back into town?
Yet there are exceptions, acts whose furrows have been carved in a particular tradition, but who take the MBV blueprint and add their own twists. Here, ahead of MBV’s comeback shows at London’s ICA this weekend and the re-issuing of both Loveless and 1988’s Isn’t Anything on Monday June 16, DiS offers forth five influenced acts who’re well worth their place in a world blessed, again, by the masters of slow-drone high-distortion rock. On their own merits they stand, parallels apparent but characteristics singular ensuring they, too, could one day be held in as high regard.
Los Angeles’ Silversun Pickups obviously own more than a couple of copies of Loveless between their members, but that’s not stopped them making their own way through the modern-day critical minefield, with many a plaudit coming their way around the release of their debut album proper Carnavas. While not everybody was sold in 2006, their second LP (release details TBA) should solidify their huge stateside fanbase and provide a platform from which to tackle Europe properly – although they’ve toured the continent with Kaiser Chiefs, the foursome haven’t yet made the inroads on this side of the Atlantic that they’ve achieved in their homeland, where singles such as ‘Lazy Eye’ and ‘Well Thought Out Twinkles’ have broken into the top ten of Billboard’s Modern Rock chart. Already a considerable MySpace attraction with over four million profile views, chances are Silversun Pickups could be the ‘new My Bloody Valentine’ that actually translates their acclaim into long-term commercial success; that their material can also echo the work of Smashing Pumpkins is an indication of their arena potential.
Soon to release their third LP, the already-acclaimed (via the odd leak or two) Microcastle, Deerhunter take MBV’s most ambient drone and shackle it onto persistently eye-poking punk squall, attention-grabbing instrumental shrieks and possessed vocal chants. Live, the Atlanta five-piece can be a transcendental experience, frontman Bradford Cox a ringmaster of some surreal circus of aural thrills and spills; it’s worth noting, too, that the singer’s Atlas Sound solo project is also at least partially indebted to the work of a certain Kevin Shields. Cox has said that MBV are very much a defining influence on Deerhunter, whose time together has been peppered with tragedy and triumph since 2001; for newcomers, head to album two Cryptograms, reviewed here. Said we around its release: “A strangely heady brew, this; an album that knows not its place in high-street store racks, nor in the hearts of those that clasp it closest to their chests”. The same could well have been said about Loveless 17 years ago.
A Place To Bury Strangers
While New York’s A Place To Bury Strangers might not especially like the shoegaze tag they’ve acquired, as our recent DiScover interview makes clear, there’s no denying the MBV influence at work, even on propulsive tracks like ‘To Fix The Gash In Your Head’, ultimately coming on like Trent Reznor re-imagining Kevin Shields’ most-vicious material in an industrial nightmare (coincidentally they’re soon to play with Nine Inch Nails). That they’ve shared stages with the likes of The Jesus & Mary Chain, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Brian Jonestown Massacre gives the absolute beginner some idea of the audience they’re presently appealing to, but with industry praise coming at them from all corners it’s hard to envisage the trio not making a decent go of being a high-profile headline act in their own right over the coming months. Frequently referred to as NYC’s loudest band, little in their output to date suggests otherwise: if witnessed live, best take ear-plug precautions however hardened the senses.
Back in 2004 no music critic could navigate through a publication of taste without some reference to this LA-based trio – their debut album Future Perfect (review) was a rumbling, disquieting collection of shoegaze tones and dramatic percussion. That record’s belated follow-up, Transit Transit, is scheduled for release later this year, and its makers recently played at the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona. The new material DiS caught is definitely promising, but one must wonder if the wind’s rather slipped from the band’s sails, what with the gulf between LPs. You can hear one new offering, ‘Audience No. 2’, on their MySpace site. If their fanbase remains loyal and Transit Transit can attract wholly new admirers, the sophomore could finally turn Autolux into the considerable force 2004’s pen-pushing praise-merchants hoped they’d be long before now. If not, they’ll remain one of rock’s great never-quite-weres, a brilliant group content to take their time in a market that moves so fast it’s a wonder anyone can keep up.
Because shoegaze, as you know it, doesn’t always have to be about guitars that leave your ears ringing for days. French act M83 – now essentially Anthony Gonzales after Nicolas Fromageau left the group – combine definite MBV-echoing FX with charming electronic elements to create a sound that’s as at home on a club dancefloor as it is someone’s kitchen midway through a house-party comedown. Comfortable simply exploring ambient sound-sculpting avenues as he seemingly is concocting pop-infected indie-dance, Gonzales is a man of many talents within his field, with few LPs mirroring previous offerings. His latest, Saturdays = Youth, contains more than its share of MBV influences, with single ‘Graveyard Girl’ displaying such colours really rather well. While some of the above-profiled acts encase their material in a very specific darkness, M83’s summertime sounds offer listeners an alternative option to riding along with leather-clad demons on an expressway straight to the Earth’s core; this is music to shoot for the stars to.
DiScuss: There’s five to start you off. What other bands have carried the MBV torch in their absence, and which will be a force to be reckoned with themselves, despite our returning champions? Have American acts completely dominated shoegaze in recent years, or are there domestic acts around worth rating as highly as the above five? Just how excited are you about MBV’s ICA shows this Friday and Saturday? Will you be picking up the new version of Loveless?
Find My Bloody Valentine on MySpace here.