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Combining wailing guitar feedback with pop arrangements and psychedelic overtones, Shoegaze was all the rage in Britain in the early 90’s thanks to bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, and Lush.
Those bands inspired a similar movement in the Americas, but thanks to Grunge and Brit‐pop, the sub‐genre fell out of favor, and U.S. Shoegaze groups never got their full due.
So let’s take a look at 4 underrated Shoegaze bands that deserve as much attention as their Brit competitors.
Essential Tracks: ‘Slut’, ‘Time Baby III’, ‘The Pink’, ‘Aruca’, ‘5ive’, ‘Never Click’, ‘Candy, Candy’, ‘Babydoll’, ‘Fried Awake’
Essential Albums: ‘Shot Forth Self Living’, ‘The Buried Life’, ‘Her Highness’
Guitarist Brad Laner’s diffuse guitar tone (created by playing through a 4‐track recorder) and vocalist Beth Thompson’s ethereal wail powers this Los Angeles group’s distinctive sound.
With disorienting seasick melodies on tracks like ‘The Pink’ and ‘Time Baby III’ (featured on ‘The Crow’ soundtrack), they made divine dance friendly noise.
As of 2015: the original lineup reformed in 2013, with their most recent album being 2014’s ‘Home Everywhere.’
Essential Tracks: ‘Soul In A Jar’, ‘’It’s Over’, CCCP’, Until You’re Forever’, ‘Wanna Be Where You Are’, ‘She Stoops To Conquer’, ‘Tinsel Town’, ‘Revolutionary Sister’, ‘Everlasting Gobstopper’
Essential Albums: ‘Marigolds’, ‘Afrodisiac’
Based in college rock mecca Chapel Hill, North Carolina, The Veldt fused Shoegaze and New Wave with a heavy dose of soul thrown in for good measure.
Their unique sound proved hard to pigeonhole, and despite being championed by Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie (who produced their sophomore effort ‘Afrodisiac’) they remain one of the best‐kept musical secrets in alternative rock.
But one listen to tracks like ‘Soul In A Jar’ or ‘It’s Over’ should prove why they deserve greater recognition.
As of 2015: Band members Daniel and Danny Chavis formed Apollo Heights and have collaborated with artists including Mos Def and David Sitek of TV On The Radio. The Veldt are still active; their latest album being released on February 2016.
Essential Tracks: ‘Stars’, I’d Like Your Hair Long’, ‘The Pod’, ‘Puppets’, ‘Green to Me’, ‘Comin’ Home’, ‘Little Dipper’, ‘If You Are To Bloom’, ‘Songs Of Farwell and Departure’
Essential Albums: ‘Electra’, ‘You’d Prefer An Astronaut’, ‘Downward is
Heavenward’ Formed in Champagne Illinois, Hum crafted epic tracks that blended Shoegaze, Space Rock and aggressive guitar textures and alt‐rock dynamics.
While they’re best known for their hit ‘Stars’ (featuring one of the most massive guitar tones of all time), they’ve cultivated a small but loyal fan base, which treat albums like ‘Electra’ and ‘You’d Prefer An Astronaut’ with devout reverence.
As of 2015: the band reformed to great acclaim at the 2015 SXSW and Riot Fest music festivals and toured with fellow space‐rock titans Failure.
Essential Tracks: ‘Diamond In Shrink Wrap’, ‘Japanese Space Opera’, ‘Alpha Jerk’, ‘Blue Sparkle Barchetta’, ‘Hot Weird’, ‘Scattered, Smothered and Covered’
Essential Albums: ‘Cruising in the Neon Glories of the New American Night’, ‘Aether’, ‘Abandinallhope’, ‘Dissatisfied Customers of Hallucination’
This Denton. TX group created a hallucinatory musical stew that mixed Shoegaze, Space Rock and Baroque Pop.
Their left‐of‐center mind‐melting shows gave them a cult fanbase, but they folded in 2000. Guitarist Wanz Dover went on to form art‐rock group The Falcon Project.
As of 2015: All appears quiet, with ex‐members keeping a low profile.
So that wraps up my list of 90’s Shoegaze bands worth checking out. I’ve included several honorable mentions below as well. But now I want to hear from you: what American Shoegaze groups do you enjoy blasting at high volume and wish they had greater success?
Tell us in the comments.
And for more alt‐rock goodness, check out my list of 8 Underrated 90’s Alternative bands (featuring two British Shoegaze acts), 8 Underrated 80’s New Wave Bands, and 5 Bands Like The Jesus And Mary Chain.
Honorable Mentions: Buck Jones, Bowery Electric, Galaxie 500
Cough cough: https://www.gofundme.com/WanzBenefit
I’ll give it a listen :-)
Have you never heard Starflyer 59?
The name sounds vaguely familiar but I haven’t heard their stuff. I shall investigate now!
You definitely should’ve also included Majesty Crush out of Detroit. Their album ‘Love 15’ is a shoegaze classic.
That’s a new one on me…I’ll check them out :-)!
Man- their entire debut is genius. Check it out-
Good stuff! Thanks for the link :)
Plus, like the Veldt, they were the rarest of shoegaze bands to be lead by an African American singer (and drummer).
The Veldt are still around– I believe they are releasing a new EP and a new album this month (Feb 2016). They’ve also been playing out quite a bit lately too.
Oh that is great news! I’ll be looking forward to some new music from them :)
Starflyer 59 is my favorite band of all time and their 1st 3 albums are absolutely essential for anyone who loves shoegaze.
I’ve had several people comment on how great they are! I’m off to do some YouTube research :).
Bowery Electric are in my opinion the best US shoegaze band.
Hey! What do you like about Bowery Electric? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Their sound is so moody, droning, hypnotic… On their second album (which is the best) they combined it with electronic beats for an amazing late-night effect
The first album tho: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96pmjoJTum8
Great feedback! Thanks for sharing your insights with us.