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Still In A Dream: A Story Of Shoegaze, 1988-1995.

Still In A Dream is a box set compilation dedicated to the shoegazing movement of late 80’s /early 90’s. This lavish collection brings you 87 tracks across five discs lovingly packaged in book format together with sleevenotes, photos and band biographies. For those already in the know, this set has been one of the most eagerly awaited releases since Cherry Red’s announcement prior to Christmas. Yet even if you were all over shoegaze, chances are you missed some of these acts. There are rarities included here as well as classics with some songs appearing on CD for the first time ever. The rest is pure nostalgia but if you’re a newcomer to this, you just struck gold.

Let’s avoid the usual pitfalls. The ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘where’ of shoegazing are simultaneously relevant and irrelevant. Shoegazing wasn’t just one thing at one precise moment in musical history. Yes, there was a ‘classic’ UK period, (the ‘scene that celebrates itself’) with a lot of bands from the Thames Valley area. Shoegaze itself had mutated out of the C86 movement, probably a reaction against the ‘basics’ of that jangly scene. The affordability of guitar effect pedals facilitated this and the UK music press were happy to fan the flames. The name shoegazing was coined simply as a reference to these mop-topped, under graduate guitarists staring at their pedal arrays.

Shoegazing came from somewhere and took us someplace else, many places in fact. Yet like any genre, it was multi-faceted and impossible to pin down. After its critical heyday, shoegazing never really went away. Cherry Red manage to capture this multidimensional aspect nicely on this collection. There are discs here dedicated to the before, during and after phases which clearly demonstrate the lineage and cross-pollination of this music. The bands that inspired shoegazing, most notably Cocteau Twins and Jesus And Mary Chain occupy disc one. Here you see the ‘parents’ of shoegaze’s beautiful side and scuzzy side. (Honourable mention to Sonic Youth, not featured) After the demise of The Smiths the spotlight of the UKs music press fell upon this ultra-creative group of ‘oceanic’ artists. Then as expected there’s a whole disc of ‘classic’ era acts such as Slowdive and Ride. These are the bands people immediately think of when hearing the expression shoegaze. Be warned, there’s no My Bloody Valentine track here. The FX pioneers have given this box set its name but no song. I wouldn’t fixate upon this. You have to keep in mind licencing. Maybe MBV just didn’t allow their work to be used or maybe it was prohibitively expensive? We’ll never know.


The middle part of the collection really showcases the elemental nature of this music. Guitars swirled and roared like heavy weather. Singing, some exceptions aside, was secondary and lyrics for the most part, simplistic. (There was an awful lot of “falling” going on, whether into love or drugs, you could never quite tell). Only the sound mattered, an emotional pull that the listener was happy to go with. Yet buried behind the maelstrom of reverb and other effects, you’d often find a smart melody. The second summer of love was only just around the corner. We tuned into shoegaze and we dropped out like the hippies we wished we were.

Eventually there was a backlash. The UK music press was very scene oriented at the time. It was a kind of business model for them – create (invent) a scene, rejoice in it, then tear it down in favour of the next (Grunge). As such, after ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, shoegaze was pretty much dead in the water both commercially and critically. Yet the music lived on. Some of the bands stood firm, refining their oeuvre. Others moved with the times. Myriad pathways sprang up. A Venn diagram of shoegazing would show that genre overlapping C86, psychedelic, Madchester, progressive, Britpop and post-rock. Just as the movement died out in the pages of UK newspapers, so it took root in the USA. A whole disc is dedicated to the non-UK branch of shoegazing’s world tree, and here’s where you’ll find plenty of hidden gems. I’m just imagining someone having never heard Bailter Space before.


Today we’ve come almost full circle with a number of the seminal shoegaze acts reforming for shows and in some cases new music. Hopefully this compilation shows the genres enduring appeal. Rather than distilling the shoegazer movement to its essence, Cherry Red preferred to widen the palette and demonstrate the full extent of its reach. The glossy, ‘book’ format makes this release a real object of desire and a terrific companion to the Scared To Get Happy and C86 box sets already released. This is a compilation unlikely to be bettered this year.

Still In A Dream is out now on the Cherry Red label.

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Scared To Get Happy