Last updated

Shoegaze (or shoegazing, initially referred to as "dream pop") [2] [11] [12] is a subgenre of indie and alternative rock that emerged in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. [1] [2] It is characterized by its ethereal-sounding mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume. [1] [12] The term shoegaze was coined by the British music press to describe the stage presence of a wave of neo-psychedelic groups [2] who stood still during live performances in a detached, introspective, non-confrontational state with their heads down. [1] [13] This was because the heavy use of effects pedals meant the performers were often looking down at the readouts on their pedals during concerts. [14]


Most shoegaze artists drew from the glide guitar template set by My Bloody Valentine on their early EPs and album Isn't Anything from the late 1980s. [1] A loose label given to the shoegaze bands and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. In the early 1990s, shoegaze groups were pushed aside by the American grunge movement and early Britpop acts such as Suede, forcing the relatively unknown bands to break up or reinvent their style altogether. [1] In the 2000s, there was renewed interest in the genre among "Nu gaze" bands.


Shoegaze combines ethereal, swirling vocals with layers of distorted, bent, flanged guitars, [6] creating a wash of sound where no instrument is distinguishable from another. [1] According to Allmusic, most bands drew from the music of My Bloody Valentine as a template for the genre. [1] The band's co-founder Kevin Shields stated that the band's choice of pedals never included chorus, flanger or delay effects. [15] His most notable effect was reverse digital reverb, sourced from a Yamaha SPX90 effects unit. Together with the vibrato manipulation and distortion, he created a technique known as "glide guitar". [16] Shields used at least 30 effects pedals, [17] most of which were distortion, graphic equalizers, and tone controls. [18]


The term originated in a concert review in Sounds for the newly formed band Moose in which singer Russell Yates read lyrics taped to the floor throughout the gig. [19] The term was picked up by NME , who used it as a reference to the tendency of the bands' guitarists to stare at their feet—or their effects pedals—while playing, seemingly deep in concentration. Melody Maker preferred calling it "The Scene That Celebrates Itself", referring to the habit that the bands had of attending gigs of other shoegaze bands, often in Camden, and often playing in each other's bands.[ citation needed ] According to AllMusic: "The shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia the band performed was dubbed shoegaze by the British press because the band members stared at the stage while they performed". [1] According to some, the term was used to describe dream pop bands. [11]

Slowdive's Simon Scott found the term relevant:

I always thought Robert Smith, when he was in Siouxsie and the Banshees playing guitar [on the 1983's Nocturne live video], was the coolest as he just stood there and let the music flood out. That anti showmanship was perfect so I never really understood why people began to use "shoegaze" as a negative term. I think if Slowdive didn't stand there looking at what pedal was about to go on and off we'd have been shite. [...] I am glad we were static and concentrated on playing well. Now it is a positive term. [20]

The term was also considered pejorative, especially by a part of the English weekly music press who considered the movement as ineffectual, and it was disliked by many of the groups it purported to describe. Lush's singer Miki Berenyi explained: "Shoegazing was originally a slag-off term. My partner [K.J. "Moose" McKillop], who was the guitarist in Moose, claims that it was originally leveled at his band. Apparently the journo was referring to the bank of effects pedals he had strewn across the stage that he had to keep staring at in order to operate. And then it just became a generic term for all those bands that had a big, sweeping, effects-laden sound, but all stood resolutely still on stage". [6] Ride's singer Mark Gardener had another take on his group's static presentation: "We didn't want to use the stage as a platform for ego ... We presented ourselves as normal people, as a band who wanted their fans to think they could do that too." [13]


Origins and precursors

My Bloody Valentine performing live in 2008 My Bloody Valentine-2.jpg
My Bloody Valentine performing live in 2008

The most commonly cited precursors to shoegaze are Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine, although My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is often referred to as the greatest album the genre has produced. [21] Each band's music bridged the styles of garage rock, 1960s psychedelia and American indie bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. [6] Other artists that have been identified as direct influences on shoegaze include The Velvet Underground, Hüsker Dü, and The Cure. [22] Siouxsie and the Banshees was also a major influence initially on Cocteau Twins. Slowdive named themselves after a Siouxsie and the Banshees song of the same name and took inspiration from the group at their beginnings. Lush, a shoegaze contemporary, were originally called "The Baby Machines", a line from a Siouxsie lyric. [23]

My Bloody Valentine emerged in the wake of their 1988 breakthrough (with the "You Made Me Realise" single and album Isn't Anything ). [24] The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock mentions that "A.R. Kane, the London duo ... (who dubbed their music 'dreampop') exerted a profound sonic influence on the legion of trippy shoegazer guitar bands that would emerge a few years later in the UK". [25] Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life cited an early 1990s Dinosaur Jr. tour of the United Kingdom as a key influence. [26]

Whereas contemporary alternative rock movements of the time period were extremely male-dominated (Britpop, grunge), My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush, Cocteau Twins, and many other popular shoegaze acts had at least one prominent female musician who contributed key vocal elements and/or integral writing components to the music. Kevin Shields noted that there were as many women as men in the shoegaze community. [27]

The Scene That Celebrates Itself

A general description given to shoegaze and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. The first stirrings of recognition came when indie writer Steve Lamacq referred to Ride in an NME review as "The House of Love with chainsaws". The shoegaze genre label was quite often misapplied. As key bands such as Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Ride emerged from the Thames Valley, Swervedriver found themselves labelled shoegazers on account of their own Thames Valley origins, despite their more pronounced Hüsker Dü-meets-Stooges stylings. [28]


The coining of the term "The Scene That Celebrates Itself" was in many ways the beginning of the end for the first wave of shoegazers. The bands became perceived by critics as over-privileged, self-indulgent, and middle-class. [6] This perception was in sharp contrast with both the bands who formed the wave of newly commercialized grunge music which was making its way across the Atlantic, as well as those bands who formed the foundation of Britpop, such as Pulp, Oasis, Blur and Suede. [13] Britpop also offered intelligible lyrics, often about the trials and tribulations of working-class life; this was a stark contrast to the "vocals as an instrument" approach of the shoegazers, which often prized the melodic contribution of vocals over their lyrical depth. Lush's final album was an abrupt shift from shoegaze to Britpop, which alienated many fans; the 1996 suicide of their drummer signaled Lush's dissolution. Following a long gap from My Bloody Valentine since Loveless, aside from their 2008 reunion tour, the band released m b v in February 2013. Shields explained their silence by noting, "I never could be bothered to make another record unless I was really excited by it." [29]

Post-movement directions

Slowdive eventually morphed into the country-infused Mojave 3 and the dream pop Monster Movie, while other shoegaze bands either split or moved in other directions. The use of electronic dance and ambient elements by bands such as Slowdive and Seefeel paved the way for later developments in post-rock and electronica. [6] Several former members of shoegaze bands later moved towards post-rock and the more electronica-based trip hop. [13] Adam Franklin of Swervedriver released lo-fi albums under the moniker Toshack Highway. [30]

While shoegaze briefly flared and then faded out in the UK, the bands of the initial wave had an immense impact on the development of regional underground and college rock scenes in the US. [31] In particular, a Lush and Ride tour of the US in 1991 [32] directly inspired the spawning of American shoegaze groups including Half String [33] and Ozean. [34] . Columnist Emma Sailor of KRUI in Iowa City opines:

The insularity and introversion of British shoegaze was an intention[al] backlash against their country’s mainstream. But when the shoegaze sound was exported to America, it arrived unattached from the cultural context that originally prompted its gloomy moods. The result? American indie bands gave shoegaze an entirely new image. Where the sound once was tightly linked with introversion, it was now attached to summery, outward looking songs with a focus on celebrating youth. [35]

About DC-based Velocity Girl's 1991 single "My Forgotten Favorite," Sailor goes on to note, "Could anything be more different — and yet so similar — to [Slowdive]? The hazy [production] and dreamy, high pitched female vocals are there, but the outlook is entirely different." Other notable American shoegaze influenced bands of the early- to mid-1990s included Lilys, The Swirlies, The Veldt, and Medicine. [36]

A resurgence of the genre began in the late 1990s (particularly in the United States) and the early 2000s, that helped usher in what is now referred to as the "nu gaze" era. [13] Also various heavy metal acts were inspired by shoegaze, which contributed to the emergence of "post-metal" and "metalgaze" styles. [37] [38] Particularly in the mid-2000s, French black metal acts Alcest and Amesoeurs began incorporating shoegaze elements into their sound, pioneering the blackgaze genre. [39]

See also

Related Research Articles

My Bloody Valentine (band) Irish alternative rock band

My Bloody Valentine are a rock band formed in Dublin in 1983. Since 1987, its lineup has consisted of founding members Kevin Shields and Colm Ó Cíosóig, with Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Googe (bass). Their music is best known for its merging of dissonant guitar textures, and unorthodox production techniques. They helped to pioneer the alternative rock subgenre known as shoegazing during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Indie rock is a genre of rock music that originated in the United States and United Kingdom in the 1970s. Originally used to describe independent record labels, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with alternative rock or "guitar pop rock". In the 1980s, the use of the term "indie" started to shift from its reference to recording companies to describe the style of music produced on punk and post-punk labels. During the 1990s, grunge and punk revival bands in the US and Britpop bands in the UK broke into the mainstream, and the term "alternative" lost its original counter-cultural meaning. The term "indie rock" became associated with the bands and genres that remained dedicated to their independent status. By the end of the 1990s, indie rock developed several subgenres and related styles, including lo-fi, noise pop, emo, slowcore, post-rock, and math rock. In the 2000s, changes in the music industry and a growing importance of the Internet enabled a new wave of indie rock bands to achieve mainstream success, leading to questions about its meaningfulness as a term.

Alternative rock is a category of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. "Alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream or commercial rock or pop music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music.

Dream pop is a subgenre of alternative rock and neo-psychedelia that developed in the 1980s. The style is typified by a preoccupation with sonic texture and atmosphere as much as melody. It often overlaps with the related genre of shoegazing, and the two genre terms have at times been used interchangeably.

Slowdive band

Slowdive are an English rock band that formed in Reading, Berkshire in 1989. The band consists of Rachel Goswell on vocals and guitar, Simon Scott on drums, Neil Halstead on vocals and guitar, Nick Chaplin on bass and Christian Savill on guitar. Several other drummers also briefly played with the band, including Adrian Sell, Neil Carter and Ian McCutcheon. Halstead is the band's primary songwriter.

Noise pop is a subgenre of alternative or indie rock that developed in the mid-1980s in the United Kingdom and United States. It is defined by its mixture of dissonant noise or feedback with the songcraft more often found in pop music. Shoegazing, another noise-based genre that developed in the 1980s, drew from noise pop.

Morr Music is an independent record label based in Berlin, Germany. It was founded in 1999 by Thomas Morr. Most artists on the label fall into the categories of intelligent dance music, electronica and dreampop, but all reflect Thomas Morr's personal taste. This results in a cohesive aesthetic observable in both the aural and visual elements of this label's releases.

<i>Isnt Anything</i> 1988 studio album by My Bloody Valentine

Isn't Anything is the debut studio album by English-Irish rock band My Bloody Valentine, released on 21 November 1988 by Creation Records. Its innovative guitar and production techniques consolidated the experimentation of the band's preceding EPs, and would make it a pioneering work of the subgenre known as shoegazing. Upon its release, the album received rave critical reviews and reached number one on the UK Independent Albums Chart.

<i>Ecstasy</i> (My Bloody Valentine album) 1987 EP by My Bloody Valentine

Ecstasy is the second mini album by the alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine, released on 23 November 1987 on Lazy Records. Released in a limited edition of 3,000 copies, it was the band's final release for Lazy Records and second to feature vocalist and guitarist Bilinda Butcher, who was recruited in April 1987 following the departure of original My Bloody Valentine vocalist David Conway. Ecstasy followed the noise pop and twee pop standards of My Bloody Valentine's earlier releases for the label, drawing influence from various artists including The Jesus and Mary Chain, Love and The Byrds, and the album distanced the band further from their earlier post-punk and gothic rock sound.

Popular music of the United Kingdom in the 1990s continued to develop and diversify. While the singles charts were dominated by boy bands and girl groups, British soul and Indian-based music also enjoyed their greatest level of mainstream success to date, and the rise of World music helped revitalise the popularity of folk music. Electronic rock bands like The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers began to achieve a high profile. Alternative rock reached the mainstream, emerging from the Madchester scene to produce dream pop, shoegazing, post rock and indie pop, which led to the commercial success of Britpop bands like Blur and Oasis; followed by a stream of post-Britpop bands like Travis and Feeder.

Neo-psychedelia is a diverse genre of psychedelic music that originated in the 1970s as an outgrowth of the British post-punk scene, also called acid punk. Its practitioners drew from the unusual sounds of 1960s psychedelia, either updating or copying the approaches from that era. After post-punk, neo-psychedelia flourished into a more widespread and international movement of artists who applied the spirit of psychedelic rock to new sounds and techniques. Neo-psychedelia may also include forays into psychedelic pop, jangly guitar rock, heavily distorted free-form jams, or recording experiments. A wave of British alternative rock in the early 1990s spawned the subgenres dream pop and shoegazing.

Ethereal wave, also called ethereal darkwave, ethereal goth or simply ethereal, is a subgenre of dark wave music that is variously described as "gothic", "romantic", and "otherworldly". Developed in the early 1980s in the UK as an outgrowth of gothic rock, ethereal wave was mainly represented by 4AD bands such as Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil, and early guitar-driven Dead Can Dance.

<i>Blue Skied an Clear</i> 2002 studio album by Various Artists on Morr Music

Blue Skied An' Clear is a two-disc compilation, featuring various artists from Morr Music covering songs from the shoegazer band Slowdive on the first disc and composing songs "inspired" by Slowdive on the second disc. It was released in 2002 by Morr Music, and was the label's 30th release. In addition to serving as a showcase of the Morr Music roster, this release serves as a testament to the resurgence or revival of the shoegazing sound in this particular realm of electronica or IDM. Whereas the initial wave of shoegazer rock had fuzzed out guitars as a central characteristic, the artists on this release combine that with glitchy beats, synth tones, and digital signal processing effects. On this release, and with this indietronica style of music in general, musicians composing with software housed in laptop computers often replace the conventional rock band formula. Being composed of Slowdive covers, the first disc has substantially more vocals than the second disc, which is more in line with the modus operandi of electronica or indietronica artists, generally speaking.

Big Sonic Heaven is a 24/7 Internet radio station and blog created, hosted and produced by Darren Revell.

Weep is an American rock band from New York City whose music combines elements of ethereal wave, gothic rock, shoegaze, post-punk and synthpop. Formed in 2008 by singer and guitarist Eric "Doc" Hammer, the band's lineup also includes bass guitarist Fred Macaraeg, keyboardist Alex Dziena and drummer Bill Kovalcik. Their debut EP, Never Ever, was released in 2008 by Hammer's Astro-Base Go company and Projekt Records, followed by the full-length albums Worn Thin (2010), Alate (2012) and Weep (2014).

<i>69</i> (album) 1988 studio album by A.R. Kane

69 is the debut album by British band A.R. Kane, released in 1988 on Rough Trade Records and produced by the band with additional co-production from Ray Shulman. Following the release of their acclaimed Lollita and Up Home! EPs, 69 developed the experimental "dream pop" style pioneered by the duo, blending elements of dub, acid rock, free jazz, and pop music. Music critic Martin C. Strong described the album's sound as "hard to pigeonhole yet seminal nevertheless."

Classic alternative is a radio format focusing on alternative music from the late 1970s to early 1990s, with particular focus on the early days of MTV.

<i>Beautiful Noise</i> (film) 2014 documentary film directed by Eric Green

Beautiful Noise is a 2014 American music documentary film, written and directed by Eric Green. The film documents three rock bands—Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine—and their influence on shoegazing and other alternative rock genres. Beautiful Noise features extracts from over 50 interviews with bands and artists, as well as archival footage and music videos.

<i>Scar</i> (Lush album) 1989 studio album by Lush

Scar is the debut mini album by the English alternative rock band Lush. It was released on 9 October 1989 on 4AD. Originally intended to be a three-track single release, Scar was produced by John Fryer and the band themselves and recorded at London's Blackwing Studios in 1989.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Explore: Shoegaze | AllMusic". 2011-02-17. Archived from the original on 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Reynolds, Simon (1 December 1991). "Pop View; 'Dream-Pop' Bands Define the Times in Britain". The New York Times . Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  3. Richardson, Mark (11 May 2012). "My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything / Loveless / EPs 1988–1991". Pitchfork . Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  4. "Noise Pop : Significant Albums, Artists and Songs, Most Viewed : AllMusic". 2 June 2012. Archived from the original on 2 June 2012.
  5. 1 2 Heller, Jason. "Where to start with the enigmatic music known as shoegaze". The A.V. Club . Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Patrick Sisson, "Vapour Trails: Revisiting Shoegaze Archived October 22, 2014, at the Wayback Machine ", XLR8R no. 123, December 2008
  7. Olivier Bernard: Anthologie de l'ambient, Camion Blanc, 2013, ISBN   2-357-794151
    "L'ethereal wave (et notamment les Cocteau Twins) a grandement influencé le shoegaze et la dream pop... L'ethereal wave s'est développée à partir du gothic rock, et tire ses origines principalement de la musique de Siouxsie and the Banshees (les Cocteau Twins s'en sont fortement inspirés, ce qui se ressent dans leur premier album Garlands, sorti en 1982). Le genre s'est développé surtout autour des années 1983-1984, avec l'émergence de trois formations majeures: Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil et Dead Can Dance... Les labels principaux promouvant le genre sont 4AD et Projekt Records."
  8. "The 80 Best Albums of the 1980s : Music : Lists : Page 1 : Paste". Retrieved 2016-08-09.
  9. "Space Rock : Allmusic".
  10. Despres, Sean. "Whatever you do, don't call it 'chillwave'". Japan Times. Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  11. 1 2 Nathaniel Wice / Steven Daly: "The dream pop bands were lionized by the capricious British music press, which later took to dismissing them as "shoegazers" for their affectless stage presence.", Alt. Culture: An A-To-Z Guide to the '90s-Underground, Online, and Over-The-Counter, p. 73, HarperCollins Publishers 1995, ISBN   0-0627-3383-4
  12. 1 2 Pete Prown / Harvey P. Newquist: "One faction came to be known as dream-pop or "shoegazers" (for their habit of looking at the ground while playing the guitars on stage). They were musicians who played trancelike, ethereal music that was composed of numerous guitars playing heavy droning chords wrapped in echo effects and phase shifters.", Hal Leonard 1997, ISBN   0-7935-4042-9
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 Rogers, Jude (27 July 2007). "Diamond gazers". London: Guardian . Retrieved 13 May 2012.
  14. "Shoegaze, the Sound of Protest Shrouded in Guitar Fuzz, Returns". New York Times. August 14, 2017. Retrieved December 17, 2019.
  15. Tom Murphy: Interview with My Bloody Valentine Archived December 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine , Denver Westword Music, April 23, 2009
  16. DiPerna, Alan (1992). "Bloody Guy". Guitar World . Harris Publications (March 1992): 152.
  17. Pareles, Jon (22 September 2008). "Music – My Bloody Valentine: Reunited, Rediscovers the Love – Review". The New York Times . The New York Times Company . Retrieved 19 February 2012.
  18. Double, Steve (1992). "Kevin Shields, My Bloody Valentine Interview". NME . IPC Media (9 November 1992): 14.
  19. Larkin, Colin (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Indie and New Wave Music. Square One. p. 188. ISBN   0-85112-579-4.
  20. Gourlay, Dom (23 April 2009). "Shoegaze Week DIS Talks To Simon Scott About His Time In Slowdive". Drownedinsound. Retrieved 10 September 2015.
  21. Anderson, Stacy. "The 50 Best Shoegaze Albums of All Time". Pitchfork. 2018 Conde Nast. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  22. Exclaim! Sound of Confusion article on Shoegaze Archived January 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine . Retrieved 22 September 2008.
  23. Tyler, Kieron (17 January 2016). "Reissue CDs Weekly: Still in a Dream - A Story of Shoegaze". Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  24. Strong, Martin C. (1999). The Great Alternative & Indie Discography . Canongate. p.  427. ISBN   0-86241-913-1. The full extent of their pioneering guitar manipulation – responsible for a whole scene of "shoegaze" musical admirers, stand up Ride, Moose, Lush etc., etc., ...
  25. Simon & Schuster: The Trouser Press Guide to '90s Rock, p.49, Fireside, March 1997, ISBN   0684814374
  26. Azerrad, Michael (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life. Back Bay. pp. 366. ISBN   978-0-316-78753-6.
  27. Beautiful Noise[ full citation needed ]
  28. Lester, Paul (1992-09-12). "Whatever Happened to Shoegaze?" Melody Maker, p.6. Retrieved 12 April 2007 from Proquest Research Library.
  29. "Kevin Shields: MBV Will "100%" Make Another Album". Retrieved 16 January 2007.
  30. Stevens, Andrew (2007-07-11). "Leave Them All Behind: The 3:AM Guide to ‘Shoegaze’ and British Indie Music in the 1990s" 3:AM Magazine . Retrieved 17 March 2013.
  31. {{cite news |title=Gregg Araki's films are giving the US a crash course in Shoegazing |url= |date=5 August 2011 | |publisher=Guardian |accessdate=4 April 2020 | location=London | first=Phelim| last=O'Neill}
  32. Berenyi, Miki. "Lush Gigography" . Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  33. Vendetta, Ben (Spring 1997). "Half String Interview". Vendetta Magazine (8). Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  34. Lamoreaux, Jason T. "An Interview with Ozean". SOMEWHERECOLD. Somewherecold Records. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  35. Sailor, Emma. "My Forgotten Favorite: American Shoegaze". KRUI. University of Iowa. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  36. "Shoegaze Music Artists". AllMusic. AllMusic, Netaktion LLC. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  37. Jacobs, Koen (4 September 2008). "Metal Gaze – From My Bloody Valentine To Nadja via SunnO)))". The Quietus . Retrieved 6 June 2012. ...the recent trend for combining metal’s sense of threat with the immersive idyll of shoegazing is undeniable, and only one aspect of the ongoing cross-pollination taking place in extreme music. For his part, r views the ‘metalgaze’ movement as less entropic than cyclical.
  38. Burgin, Leah (5 December 2015). "Metalgaze gets confused with monotony on Pelican's latest disc". The Michigan Daily . University of Michigan . Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  39. Zina, Natalie (2014-02-26). "The Translator Blackgaze". Retrieved 2016-08-09.