It's time to talk about shoegaze
, folks, because, in the over-memed words of Inigo Montoya, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Over the years, shoegaze has basically come to be used to identify any post-C86/pre-Britpop indie guitar music from England, and while you could make specious but understandable arguments for some of it, the fact remains that if you are identifying a band like Curve
as a shoegaze band, you're just doing it wrong.
However, there the band is, leading off Disc 3 of the recently released and highly lauded five-CD compilation Still in a Dream: A Story of Shoegaze 1988-1995
, when, literally, the only things that Curve had nicked from the shoegaze stylebook were "big guitars" and "a female in there somewhere."
Curve were a modern pop band, combining guitars, thick hooks, noisy atmospherics and bruisingly forward electronic percussion. Rooted in the studio around the creative impulses of two collaborators – Dean Garcia
and Toni Halliday
– they were not a mopey guitar band hiding behind effects pedals and haircuts. They were glossy and grimy in equal measure, balancing a dynamic that was polished and punishing, eschewing all of the shy swoon and back-to-the-womb rockism of their supposed shoegaze counterparts.
In fact, when the band released its first EP on Eurythmic Dave Stewart's Anxious label in March of 1991, none of the reviews of Blindfold
even mentioned the word "shoegaze." After all, the lead track had a rap breakdown
in the middle of it, which was quite normal for pop and electronic tracks of the time, but utterly unheard of in shoegaze circles. The other three songs were no more shoegazey; even the closing track – "No Escape From Heaven," which, you know, is titled
like a shoegaze track – is a pulsing pop song, full of rhythmic crescendo and melodic insistence. Yes, there were multi-tracked guitars all over the place, but Halliday's forward-facing vocals (and general presence
) and the unabashedly modern approach the two took sharply separated them from the more insular and psychedelic approach of shoegaze.
The duo's bracing noisy-electronics-plus-forceful-guitars-plus-pop-vocals approach was later mimicked (to much greater success) by Garbage
– a band who were never called "shoegaze" – but, at the time, Curve was very much seen as a poppy, alt-rock outlier on the scene, and though they would tour with the Jesus and Mary Chain and Spiritualized, their kinship was much more with those bands' rock & roll tendencies, rather than their atmospheric aspects.
So, while Blindfold
is most definitely a great EP, can we please stop calling it shoegaze?