Various Artists

Still in a Dream: A Story of Shoegaze

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Let's get this out of the way at the beginning. Telling the story of the overdriven, dreamlike sound of shoegaze without including a song by My Bloody Valentine is like The Great Gatsby without Gatsby or Citizen Kane without Charles Foster Kane. The group pretty much invented the sound, went on to perfect it, and was always the one band that could be counted on to innovate and disrupt. Still, once you get past that not insubstantial hurdle, Cherry Red's Still in a Dream: A Story of Shoegaze is a pretty great collection. Over the course of five discs, it gathers up major influences on the shoegaze sound, rounds up all the main practitioners, travels around the globe and catches the best of the U.S. pedal pushers (Swirlies, Black Tambourine) along the way, and takes some mild detours into dream pop, baggy, and noise, all the while dropping classic songs one after the other. The compilers make full use of all five discs, digging deep and casting a wide net that yields both obvious choices and some much less so. Part of the fun going through the discs is hearing "hits" by big names like Slowdive, Ride, and Swervedriver; part of it is rediscovering bands like Sweet Jesus, whose "Phonefreak Honey" is a delightfully sugary blast of distortion and melody, Adorable, a stadium-sized band with tunes like "Sunshine Smile" that were built on huge, impossible to ignore hooks, and Majesty Crush, who impress with the archly pretty "No. 1 Fan." There also are bands that even someone who was around during the era covered here (1988 to 1995) may have missed. Jane from Occupied Europe's "Ocean Run Dry" is an early noise pop gem; Coaltar of the Deepers' Charming Sister Kiss Me Dead!!" is a chunky, almost metallic tune from Japan that shows how universal the sound became. By the time the set is over it's hard not to be impressed by how quickly the shoegaze sound spread and evolved, how many bands were able to use it to an advantage, and -- more to the point here -- how well the set is put together. Apart from MBV, it's hard to think of any bands they missed, just as it's difficult to think of too many that they could have cut. It might have been interesting to boil the track list down a bit, then spend a disc catching up on the post-1995 bands that have kept the sound alive. That being said, the story they do tell on Still in a Dream is a fascinating one, full of guitar-mangling bliss and soaring melodic grandeur suitable for a fuzzy trip down memory lane or a deep dive of discovery for the novice gazer.

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