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Shoegazing (also known as shoegaze) is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. It lasted until the mid 1990s with a critical zenith reached in 1990 and 1991. The British music press—particularly NME and Melody Maker—named this style shoegazing because the musicians in these bands stood relatively still during live performances, in a detached, introspective, non-confrontational state, hence the idea that they were gazing at their shoes.

The shoegazing sound is typified by significant use of guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blended into the creative noise of the guitars. A lump description given to shoegazing and other affiliated bands in London in the early 1990s was The Scene That Celebrates Itself. In the 1990s, shoegazing groups were pushed aside by the American grunge movement, forcing the relatively unknown bands to break up or reinvent their style altogether. Recent times have seen a renewed interest in the genre among "nu-gaze" bands.

Style, roots, and influences

Common musical elements of shoegazing consist of distortion, droning riffs and a "wall of sound" from noisy guitars. Typically, two distorted rhythm guitars are played together to give an amorphous quality to the sound. Although lead guitar riffs were often present, they were not the central focus of most shoegazing songs.

Vocals are typically subdued in volume and tone, but underneath the layers of guitars is generally a strong sense of melody. However, lyrics are not emphasized; vocals are often treated as an additional instrument.While the genres which influenced shoegazing often used drum machines, shoegazing more often features live drumming.

The name was coined in a review in Sounds of a concert by the newly-formed Moose in which singer Russell Yates read lyrics taped to the floor throughout the gig. The term was picked up by the NME, who used it as a reference to the tendency of the bands' guitarists to stare at their feet—or their effects pedals; seemingly deep in concentration, while playing. Melody Maker preferred the more staid term The Scene That Celebrates Itself, referring to the habit which the bands had of attending gigs of other shoegazing bands, often in Camdenmarker, and often moonlighting in each other's bands:

The shatteringly loud, droning neo-psychedelia the band performed was dubbed shoegazing by the British press because the bandmembers stared at the stage while they performed.

The term was sometimes considered pejorative, and disliked by many of the groups it purported to describe,
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.
- Miki Berenyi

The most commonly cited precursors to shoegazing are Cocteau Twins , The Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. But common musical threads between the different bands include garage rock, '60s psych, and American indie bands like Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.

The first bands to attract the shoegazing label (Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, Slowdive and Moose) were largely influenced by My Bloody Valentine, and emerged in the wake of their breakthrough in 1988 with the "You Made Me Realise" single and the album Isn't Anything, and the shoegazing label has more recently been applied to My Bloody Valentine themselves. Other artists that have been identified as influences on shoegazing include The Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, Hüsker Dü, Spacemen 3, The Chameleons The Cure, Bauhaus, Galaxie 500, and The Smiths.

Michael Azerrad's book Our Band Could Be Your Life cites an early 1990s Dinosaur Jr tour of the United Kingdom as a key influence. While not classified as a shoegazing band, Dinosaur Jr did share a tendency to blend poppy melody with loud guitars and laconic vocals. A lengthy 1992 U.S. tour featuring My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr. and Yo La Tengo raised the genre's profile in the US considerably.


The Scene That Celebrates Itself

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


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. This perception was in sharp contrast with those bands who formed the wave of newly-commercialised grunge music which was making its way across the Atlantic, and those bands who formed the foundation of Britpop, such as Blur, Suede, Oasis and Pulp. 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 shoegazing to Britpop, which alienated many fans; the 1996 suicide of their drummer signaled Lush's dissolution. Nothing has surfaced from My Bloody Valentine since Loveless until their reunion tour in 2008. Plans for a new album have been confirmed, with frontman Kevin Shields explaining their silence by noting, "I never could be bothered to make another record unless I was really excited by it."

Post-movement directions

Slowdive eventually morphed into the country-infused Mojave 3 and the dream pop Monster Movie, while other shoegazing bands either split or moved in other directions. The Verve (at the time known simply as "Verve") went more towards mainstream rock on their 1997 album Urban Hymns, before singer Richard Ashcroft went solo. The Verve have since reunited and released a new album, Forth. Mark Gardener and Loz Colbert of Ride released an album as The Animalhouse; in 2006, Gardener's first solo album was released. 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. Several former members of shoegazing bands later moved towards post-rock and the more electronica-based trip hop. Adam Franklin of Swervedriver released lo-fi albums under the moniker Toshack Highway. Early Starflyer 59 could also be defined as Shoegazing.

Recent times have seen a renewed interest in the genre among "nu-gaze" bands. Several recent bands, including The Big Pink, The Velvet Teen, Silversun Pickups, Maps, Van She, M83, Engineers,and Asobi Seksu borrow heavily from the earlier shoegazing bands.

See also

Shoegazing timeline

Selected bands and events in the genre:

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 at:1985 color:grid2 layer:back
 at:1991 color:grid2 layer:back


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 from:1982 till:1997 text:"Cocteau Twins"
   at:1986 text:"1986: Victorialand released by Cocteau Twins"~
 from:1984 till:1999 text:"The Jesus & Mary Chain"
   at:1984 text:"1984: Upside Down / Vegetable Man released by The Jesus & Mary Chain"
   at:1985 text:"1985: Psychocandy released by The Jesus & Mary Chain"
 from:1984 till:1994 text:"My Bloody Valentine"
   at:1988 text:"1988: Isn't Anything released by My Bloody Valentine"
   at:1991 text:"1991: Loveless released by My Bloody Valentine"
 from:1987 till:1996 text:"The Pale Saints"
   at:1990 text:"1990: The Comforts of Madness released by The Pale Saints"
   at:1992 text:"1992: In Ribbons released by The Pale Saints"
 from:1987 till:1991 text:"Galaxie 500"
   at:1989 text:"1989: On Fire released by Galaxie 500"
 from:1987 till:2000 text:"Bailter Space"
   at:1993 text:"1993: Robot World released by Bailter Space"
 from:1987 till:1996 text:"The Nightblooms"
   at:1992 text:"1992: The Nightblooms released by The Nightblooms"
 from:1987 till:1996 text:"Chapterhouse"
   at:1991 text:"1991: Whirlpool released by Chapterhouse"
   at:1993 text:"1993: Blood Music released by Chapterhouse"
 from:1988 till:1996 text:"Ride"
   at:1990 text:"1990: Nowhere released by Ride"
   at:1992 text:"1992: Going Blank Again released by Ride"
 from:1988 till:1996 text:"Lush"
   at:1992 text:"1992: Spooky released by Lush"
 from:1988 till:1999 text:"The Boo Radleys"
   at:1990 text:"1990: Ichabod And I released by The Boo Radleys"
   at:1992 text:"1992: Everything's Alright Forever released by The Boo Radleys"
 from:1989 till:1995 text:"Slowdive"
   at:1991 text:"1991: Just For a Day released by Slowdive"
   at:1993 text:"1993: Souvlaki released by Slowdive"
 from:1990 till:1995 text:"The Verve"
   at:1993 text:"1993: A Storm In Heaven released by Verve"
 from:1990 till:1999 text:"Swervedriver"
   at:1991 text:"1991: Raise released by Swervedriver"
   at:1993 text:"1993: Mezcal Head released by Swervedriver"
 from:1990 till:2004 text:"Lilys"
   at:1991 text:"1992: In The Presence of Nothing released by Lilys"
 from:1990 till:2000 text:"Moose"
   at:1991 text:"1991: Sonny & Sam released by Moose"
   at:1992 text:"1992: ...XYZ released by Moose"
 from:1990 till:2004 text:"Ecstasy of St. Theresa"
   at:1991 text:"1991: Susurrate released by Ecstasy of St. Theresa"
 from:1990 till:2001 text:"Catherine Wheel"
   at:1992 text:"1992: Ferment released by Catherine Wheel"
 from:1991 till:1995 text:"Medicine"
   at:1992 text:"1992: Shot Forth Self Living released by Medicine"


  1. All Music: Genre: Shoegaze. Retrieved 12 April 2007.
  2. Patrick Sisson, " Vapour Trails: Revisiting Shoegaze", XLR8R no. 123, December 2008
  3. Erlewine,Stephen Thomas. "[1]". Retrieved on February 7, 2009.
  4. " MBV, JAMC, Corgan, Coyne, Reznor in Shoegaze Doc" - Pitchfork Media article
  5. Allmusic genre article on "Shoegaze"
  6. The Muso: "Shoegazing - A Brief Overview"
  7. Exclaim! Sound of Confusion article on Shoegaze Retrieved 22 September 2008
  8. All Music: Portable Galaxie 500. Retrieved 5 January 2008.
  9. Azerrad, Michael (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life. Back Bay. pp. 366. ISBN 0-316-78753-6.
  10. Lester, Paul (1992-09-12). "Whatever Happened to Shoegazing?" Melody Maker, p.6. Retrieved 12 April 2007 from Proquest Research Library.
  11. Jude Rogers talks to the pioneers of nu-gazing. | | Arts
  12. Smart, James (2005-06-13). "Review: Pop: Ambulance LTD: The Venue, Edinburgh 3/5." The Guardian. Retrieved 12 April 2007 from Lexis Nexis Academic.
  14. The Blurb: Van She interview
  15. Annan, Nick (2008) " Top Ten - Shoegazing", Clash, 18 July 2008

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