It can be easy to forget that shoegaze, the reverb-heavy subgenre of indie rock and neo-psychedelia was primarily a genre that thrived in the 90s. With its shimmery, fuzzy stoner aesthetic, it feels like it should be back in style. At least, I had a moment of confusion when I entered Union Transfer September 22 (my first time there) for a Lush show to find a crowd of people that all looked like they could be my parents. It was then that I remembered that before their 2016 EP, they hadn’t released any music since the 90s. It all made sense.
Perhaps it is for that reason that a young 2016 shoegaze fledgling such like me felt reverence for the group before us. I marveled at how this music, which is beginning to define my youth, can sound mature and that mature people can play it.
With such a long gap in their discography, Lush has had plenty of time to rehearse, write and perfect any new music they’d put out and any old music they’d play live. And as any musician could tell you, practicing made all the difference. Don’t get me wrong, Lush was a good band in the 80s and 90s, but I’d go so far as to say that in 2016, Lush is a powerhouse and a shoegaze authority. Their new EP, Blind Spot, veers sharply away from their tendency toward pop demonstrated in the 90s, and delves into thicker, dreamier harmony.
Their musical development was evident in their performance. They performed a variety of music from the duration of their careers, ranging from dream pop to goth rock and back to their more recent, reverb-heavy shoegaze.
While it wasn’t my favorite portion of the show, even their pop and goth rock tunes sounded far more mature and well-rehearsed. The songs that once embodied the rebellion of youth, were now performed almost as throwbacks to an earlier time. Now, they carry the maturity and beginnings of wisdom found in adulthood, but without any of the dreariness or monotony. Their youth is still very much alive; in fact, they went on to play two separate encores.
Their opener, Tamaryn, provided a younger contrast. With pink hair which seldom moved from its post as a curtain in front of her face, the singer swayed and crooned her way through an ethereal set of what would certainly be called dream pop if it weren’t for the guitarist, Rex John Shelverton.
Shelverton could be dubbed Kevin Shields 2.0, in the best way possible. His harmony, guitar tone and the array of pedals which branded the genre, gave the impression that he took the best from every trailblazing shoegaze group (My Bloody Valentine, LSD and the Search for God, etc.) and brought it into 2016. He clearly carried the group.
While Tamaryn’s vocals were pretty, they were generic, as was the bassist. The group’s instrumentation was completed by a drum machine, which would have been tacky if it didn’t give the group most of the poppy sound that made it modern and distinct.
Comebacks like Lush’s bring us back and continue creating quality material; the seeds are planted to grow new artists like Tamaryn. They continue to expand a genre that definitely is not dead. It may have just been sleeping for a few years.