This is another one of those Cherry Red masterpieces which opens your eyes – and ears – to music you’d long since forgotten about, or managed to miss in the first place.
Shoegazing – or “the scene that celebrates itself” as the Melody Maker dubbed it, was the label given to the slew of indie bands who evolved in the late 80s/early 90s out of the C86/dream pop scene.
Its exponents married dreamy, off-kilter melodies to effects-laden guitar riffs, resulting in a heavily psychedelic sound.
Bands like the feedback-driven The Jesus And Mary Chain (TJ&MC) and the ethereal Cocteau Twins were among its key influencers, along with US noisemakers like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth.
Originally a put-down to a new breed of bands who too busy looking down at their effects pedals to glance at their audience, shoegazing became an accepted term for the genre as a whole.
Many of the bands came from London and the wider Thames Valley area, but they can’t have imagined how far and wide their influence would permeate.
Spread over five discs, and housed in the sort of lavish ‘book set’ which has become Cherry Red’s trademark, this 87-track collection brings together classics, cult favourites, rarities and songs new to CD.
It kicks off with Rollercoaster, one of the less obvious TJ&MC tracks which could have been chosen, and the first disc is a feast of some of the best bands the genre had to offer.
Early single Christine by The House of Love, is one of the highlights, and there are other gems from the likes of the more laidback Spacemen 3, Galaxie 500, John Peel favourites 14 Iced Bears, and Kitchens Of Distinction.
Disc two arguably covers the scene’s halcyon days, with offerings from Ride, Lush, Swervedriver and Slowdive, along with more psychedelic sounding offerings from The Darkside (who, with the baggy scene also thriving, are also influenced by the Happy Mondays) and Chapterhouse.
More heavyweights feature on disc three, such as Curve and Moose, alongside the more spaced-out sounds of Spiritualized and the first stirrings of the scene gaining a wider foothold, courtesy of the Czech band The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa.
The Sunflowers from Tynemouth, originally touted as the North East’s answer to the Stone Roses, open disc four, and though it and disc five are probably only for real aficionados of the scene, the names of Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips leap out, and some of the lesser-known bands (Drop, The Belltower, are surprisingly good.
Yes, there’s some instantly-forgettable tracks here, but just as many forgotten gems, such as The House of Love’s wonderful Christine, and Swervedriver’s mighty Rave Down.
And who remembers that The Boo Radleys started out as a shoegazing band before being embraced and then being swept along by the tide of the rapidly-emerging Britpop?
Shoegazing was flavour of the month in the UK for perhaps two years, but its exponents influenced a whole raft of like-minded bands in the US, Canada, and as far afield as Japan and New Zealand.
The compilers note that they would have liked to have included tracks by My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, Stereolab and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, among others, but were prevented from doing so by licensing restrictions.
That’s a shame, but the revival in recent years of bands such as TJ&MC, Lush and Swervedriver suggest we haven’t heard the last of shoegazing yet. 8/10.