Posts Tagged ‘Optic Nerve Recordings’

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Not just My Bloody Valentine – Eight original Shoegazing bands who need reviving

By Stefano on February 5th, 2013

mbvLike most music obsessives from time to time I have wondered what it must have been like to be there at a pivotal moment in music history. You know, like avoiding the sweat dripping off the ceiling while the Fab Four hone their post-Hamburg rock and roll in The Cavern. Or watching the light show and Syd Barrett in psychedelic melt down mode at the UFO. Or even hanging with the art school punks at CBGBs as they watched as Blondie’s pop moves took New York’s indie screen global.

The nearest I ever got to a seismic pop moment was in a small and sweaty basement room bizarrely sited on Oxford Street by Tottenham Court Road tube. For there in 1991, the club, known as the Syndrome, became the meeting place for the main movers of the London wing of British indie, some of whom would go on to create some incredible music.

Energised by both the danceable grooves coming out of Manchester and the visceral punky thrills of grunge jetting in from America’s North West coast, the likes of Blur, Ride, Lush, Moose and many others began to fashion a musical response that kept the energy of punk but , how shall we put this, was a little more cerebral. And the music these middle class punks played (for many of the bands were from the posher parts of London and the South East) became known as shoegazing (after some of the musician’s habits of looking at their feet while messing with effects pedals).

As well as absorbing the primitive, yet arty sounds of bands like Dinosaur Junior and Sonic Youth, the Shoegazers were almost all highly influenced by the feedback drenched howl of My Bloody Valentine. Many bands also kept the melodic obsession of the C86 bands in creating sweet, often catchy tunes that they buried under howls of effects and white noise.

Shoegazing, just like The Syndrome, didn’t last too long, but for a couple of the bands it was a springboard to better things. Sadly though most of them didn’t see the musical tidal wave of Brit Pop coming and the music press quickly lost interest in shy, retiring musicians from Surrey and turned their attention to boisterous Beatles-obsessed northerners. In fact almost all of them were history by the mid -90. Except that is in the US where a couple of bands from a city on the nation’s West coast kept the genre alive.

So with My Bloody Valentine releasing their first album in twenty or so years there is no better time to go back and revisit some of the less well known protagonists of the Shoegazing (a term which not surprisingly almost all the bands associated with it hated) era. There are profiles of eight bands and you can hear them, along with some fellow travellers in the Spotify playlist.

* The most under rated 80s indie bands here

* Under rated British 90s indie bands

The Charlottes

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Picture 1 of 8

One of the earliest shoegazey type bands The Charlottes were massively influenced by both My Bloody Valentine’s creative use of feedback and also the poppy melodies of C86-ers like The Primitives. The debut single Are You Happy Now is a classic of the genre with a female vocalist singing a sweet pop tune that they proceed to bury under an avalanche of guitars, effects and Who style drum fills. They got even better too. Their 1991 album Things Come Apart, which has recently been reissued on vinyl by Optic Nerve Recordings, contains Liar, a glorious thrashy tune which was almost an underground hit in the US and See Me Feel - think The Ramones with effects pedals. Sadly the band split soon after with drummer Simon Scott defecting to Slowdive.


Ace new vinyl record label Optic Nerve re-issues classic 80s and 90s indie including The Cleaners From Venus

By Stefano on January 17th, 2013

If you liked our round up of long lost 80s and 90s indie bands than you should check out the releases from a new-ish label Optic Nerve.

Based in Cumbria, Optic Nerve specialises in high quality vinyl record reissues of great indie music from the 80s and 90s.

This week sees two new albums bearing its imprint in the guise of much under-rated shoegazers, The Charlottes, Mancunian C86-ers The Waltones and legendary Essex psych/indie combo The Cleaners from Venus

Each album is delivered on high quality coloured vinyl, beautifully packaged and in some instances accompanied by copious sleeve notes.

The one that got me the most excited is The Very Best Of The Cleaners From Venus. If you have never heard them think The Kinks meeting The Cure (at their most melodic) some time during the late 80s. Their string of albums is superb – the early cassette-based ones are packaged here - while this compilation takes the choice cuts from the trio they made at the end of the decade.

There are so many good songs, but highlights for me are the mad time travel through Swinging London, Illya Kuryakin Looked At Me, and the Transatlantic mega hit ballad that never was Mercury Girl. The album comes with a great booklet with reminiscences from band member, now high profile journalist and author, Giles Smith. It sells for £23.99 and is limited to a run of 500.

The Charlottes’ album Things Come Apart is also a real gem. The band were doing shoegazey, feedback-drenched wall of sound indie long before bands like Lush and Ride took it mainstream. There is a bite and verve to their music that is lacking in some of the bands that followed them too, and in opener Liar, they have a real long lost gem of a song. They deserved better – though one member did end up in Slowdive (is that better?) and they are clearly a big influence on this lot. The album is also limited to 500 and sells for £15.99. Here’s a video of the band playing Liar in the early 90s on a deserted Parliament Hill.

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