Shoegazing music was just as much about redefining musical convention and expanding sonic parameters as it was about churning out layers of reverb-induced, psychedelic-flavored scuzz. At one time it was truly an experimental form, particularly witnessed in the tortured genius of Kevin Shields and friends. While earnestly attempting to continue this tradition, and fill the void of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and the like, Reverb Records’ NWShoegazerbliss only succeeds in reifying the form. While there are some bright moments that teeter on brilliance, most of the tracks suggest that these bands are only familiar with aural characteristics of the genre, and not the conceptual underpinnings. The result is something quite formulaic. The scuzzy wash may still be there, but the spirit of experimentation (the artist relentlessly seeking to challenge herself as well as her audience) is noticeably absent.
It is not that the songs on this compilation are particularly bad, they just aren’t all that interesting. There are a few exceptions, however. The Highviolets’ “44 Down” reminds me of a song I once put on a mix tape several years back, sandwiched between My Bloody Valentine’s “Sometimes” and Dinosaur Jr.’s “Freak Scene.” I don’t remember the name of that song, nor the name of the band, but “44 Down,” with its sublime vocals that oozes over a loop of fuzz, sounds just like it. While this track is nothing new, it does take me back to more halcyon days and is thus cherished for its nostalgic value. And I guess it is for this very reason that NWShoegazerbliss is not a complete waste.
Let’s face it, popular culture has been pretty bland for some time now. The paucity of originality is utterly dumfounding — it’s all been done before. People are all in a tizzy about the new Radiohead release. I have yet to hear Hail to the Thief, but if it is anything like Amnesiac or Kid A, I ain’t missing out on much. Radiohead only sounds “innovative” because of the context in which they make their music. Sure, compared to most of their contemporaries, they are epochal. This tangent is all to say, NWShoegazerbliss is worthwhile when placed in the context of contemporary popular culture — the fact that it lacks imagination beyond regurgitating what has already been done is overshadowed by the abundance of dreck that surrounds it. Those familiar with the foundations of shoegazer music have little need for this compilation.
Reverb Records: http://www.reverbrecords.net/