Never Lose That Feeling #2
n odd mixture of the Smiths’ coyness, the Jesus and Mary Chain’s droning noise fetish, the Cocteau Twins’ echoing beauty, and the slacker guitar pedal frenzy of Dinosaur Jr, shoegaze never became the era-defining genre it could have been. In America, its blissed-out introversion was no match for the familiar and effusive rumblings of grunge, and in the UK—shoegaze’s major base of operation—it trailed off by the mid-90s, save for some of its shinier bits, which were disassembled and welded to the vainglorious edifice of Britpop.
Luckily enough for its stick limbed and mop-topped progenitors, today, the material holds up. Shoegaze not only produced a couple of unadulterated classics from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, but also a number of solid releases from a variety of artists such as Ride, Galaxie 500, The Catherine Wheel, Lush, and others.
This compilation, the second from the UK club and record label AC30, consists of a series of covers from what is now considered the shoegaze canon. With contributions from some of the original players on the scene, including members of Lush and the Drop Nineteens, Never Lose That Feeling doesn’t want for credibility. What it lacks is range. With multiple tracks from many of the bands covered, it often seems less like a primer and more like a loosely cobbled set of personal favorites.
The album opens with a trio of Catherine Wheel tracks from their 1992 LP Ferment. First up is “Black Metallic,” an expansive and melancholic classic that sounds mighty similar to the original save for the addition of a female vocal (a gender inversion that continues on half the tracks). Following is a serviceable rendition of “Shallow,” and an airy electro take on “I Want to Touch You.” The best analogy here is leftover pizza: it’s still good, but if you were attempting to make the best possible argument for the importance of pizza, you’d probably want something a bit fresher.
Next up are some engaging and stately takes on Spiritualized and Galaxie 500, but these merely serve as preamble for the three My Bloody Valentine covers that follow. Taking on the material from Loveless is bound to border on apostasy, and the first MBV cover, “Soon” by the group Hartfield, shows the downside to emulating your idols. With a clickety-clack beat and muddled guitars, it’s a yawner because it’s too nervous to even attempt to move away from the original. By contrast, The Swirlpool’s version of “When You Sleep” is a success because of its distance from the original, leading the track into darker territory with a harsh synthetic rhythm and distant AM radio vocals. Nemeth/Siewert’s minimal take on the already spare “No More Sorry” takes a similar approach: it’s a delicate, if easy to miss, interpretation of the original.
The second half is a mixture of singles that does an admirable job of showcasing the influence of shoegaze on later genres. The Slowdive track “Souvlaki Space Station” as played by Destroyalldreamers is the most faithful cover on the album. Taking the original—tricky pedal delays and all—and recording it with a live feel, sans vocals, you can hear Slowdive just as well as you can the post-rock of Explosions in the Sky and Mono. Exileinsides’ Chapeterhouse cover “Pearl” nails the transition between electro-pop and dream-pop, and Paula Kelley’s stringed-out take on Ride’s “Vapour Trail” shows the grandiose sentimentality that Oasis soon rode to prominence.
Although a reasonable introduction to the genre, Never Lose That Feeling assumes its title all too heartily. As a result, those who never had that feeling in the first place could be left without any idea as to why that feeling is important at all. Considering that shoegaze is so named for the fact that its practitioners didn’t seem to care enough about their audience to look them in the eye, the lack of directness is a fitting non-surprise. But for anyone with a couple MBV or Slowdive mp3’s, this compilation offers numerous points of entrance, opening the door to a slightly dusty genre whose time has come again.
Reviewed by: Sam Roudman
Reviewed on: 2006-11-10