there are a few shoegazer bands i have been pretty into for a long time. they are mazzy star, medicine, and my bloody valentine. i found that all three of them followed a similar career trajectory:
- start out sucky while they find their legs;
- develop their sound;
- create a one or two phenomenal records that are heartbreakingly beautiful;
- disappear off the face of the planet for many years;
- quietly reappear in 2013 or 2014 with a new album that has most of the right elements but is somehow nowhere near as good as their old shit.
so i wonder, what is wrong with their new stuff? is it them, or is it me? maybe i’m not hearing it from the same place i was 10 years ago. i don’t think that’s it though. i honestly think their new stuff is just slightly different, and each one just happens to lack one or two specific qualities that made it so fucking special in the first place.
the new my bloody valentine is probably the best of them but it lacks heaviness. loveless was the single most pure, most distilled shoegazer record ever made but it was also ridiculously heavy. like, banging my head while driving my station wagon as if i’m listening to slayer. that kind of heavy. and while the new record has all the dreamy vocals, slowed down/sped up record sounds, and lush production values of loveless, it’s just not heavy. it does not make me want to bang my head, and that’s a bummer.
i think medicine was the most consistent of my fave 3 ‘gazers. their early records all sounded like shit but contained a high percentage of incredibly touching, beautiful, jagged, almost industrial pop music. i really like ‘shot forth self living’ and ‘the buried life’ but i certainly breathed a sigh of relief when i realized ‘her highness’ actually boasted a production that didn’t sound like a 14-yr old messing around with a 4-track in a windstorm. it’s still beautiful and jagged but it doesn’t hurt my ears, which is great. so when i saw they released a new album in 2013, i was pumped. i figured they would continue the logical progression they had been on and make more industrial pop music with an even better production, but nope. any traces of accessibility and pop music have evaporated on ‘to the happy few.’ it has a good production in that i can tell it sounds exactly like they hoped it would, but the aesthetic they achieved is almost as unlistenable as their early records. hoo-ray.
i think mazzy star’s new album is the worst of the lot. it sounds like them, but a b-rate version of them, like hope sandoval sat there thinking “what random, cryptic, romantic words should i throw down?” while david roback played some more lousy blues-folk. what i like so much about their best record, ‘so tonight that i might see,’ is that while it is cryptic and bluesy as fuck, it feels like sandoval and roback were actually writing stuff they cared about. and there were tons of great hooks, too. now it seems like they’re just copying their old blueprint, and i don’t hear any hooks at all. it sounds forced, flaccid, uninspired.
i guess i will just have to be content with the half dozen records these artists made back in the 90’s that i still love so much, and give up on them the hope of them ever recapturing their former glories. geese can’t lay golden eggs forever.