Gazing and Dreaming – An ICA of Opening Tracks

People who like a genre, or even a sub-genre of Rock + Roll or Pop Music usually hate the tag that the Music Press gives it. The bands which created a sub-genre of indie/alternative Rock which came out of the UK in the very late 80s and into the early 90s, featuring a mixture of fuzzy, distorted and ethereal guitars, obscure or multi-layered vocals and sometimes turned up the psychedelia, were herded under the tag Shoegaze and ultimately Dream Pop. The lore revolves around a reviewer from Sounds Magazine describing how Moose singer Russell Yates would tape his lyrics to the floor and look down at them as he sang. It was picked up by NME and a genre was born.

I have never had any problem with the Shoegaze tag. Bands since Jesus and Mary Chain had been paying more attention to their guitars and pedals than the audience for years, so I thought, yeah, kinda appropriate, if obvious, but also a name that could be interpretive. The range of sound that is gathered up under the tags of Shoegaze and Dream Pop is pretty broad and was ever-changing as bands reacted to what was going on around them in music. I tend to like much of the Shoegaze I listen to, to be hard or harsh, but there are so many examples of that ethereal feel that I love as well.

Here is, by no means, the be all and end all selection of Opening Tracks from Shoegaze/Dream Pop bands. When I put it together and listened back, I was very satisfied. Hope you are too.

Side A

1. Stray – Lush (Spooky)

This opener is a great example of how light and complex their sound can be. Miki’s vocals are like a that of a Post Punk Siren. There’s danger and darkness in all this song’s beauty.

2. Lannoy Point – Ride (Weather Diaries)

Proof that you can’t keep a great and vital band down, especially when they still have so much to contribute 20 years on. Opening the masterpiece that is Weather Diaries, Lannoy Point is a slow burn that picks up pace and intensity as it goes. Is there anything as beautiful as the twin guitars of Andy Bell and Mark Gardener? I don’t think so.

3. Spanish Air – Slowdive (Just For A Day)

Spanish Air is dark and inward. It is full of psychedelia and some 60s Garage Rock moves, but it’s the homage to an earlier sound of Cocteau Twins that I was originally attracted to when I first heard Slowdive.

4. Way The World Is – Pale Saints (A Comfortable Madness)

Starting like some lysergic freakout, Way The World Is introduced me to an album that, for me, stands way above the fray of the genre. It’s a short song that makes it point and ends the trip quickly, leaving you in limbo. A Comfortable Madness is full of inward twists and turns and every time I listen to it, I find something new to focus my attention on.

5. Breather – Chapterhouse (Whirlpool)

Breather, and indeed the album Whirlpool, straddles Indie and Shoegaze like no other band. I seem to remember them being initially very popular, because the sound was confident and catchy, but this ended up being their downfall with the music journos.

Side B

6. Everywhere – Cranes (Forever)

Cranes were a problem for many. Were they Goth, Indie, Shoegaze? Yes. Alison Shaw’s vocals were the darker side of Clare Grogan, while the sound veered into Cure territory an awful lot over the years, but this opener from 1993’s hit all the right notes for me. It apes the opening cords of Patti Smith’s Dancing Barefoot and just takes off from there.

7. Texture – The Catherine Wheel (Ferment)

Ferment is a great album. I don’t care how much of a hit to my credibility that statement may be, but it is so well made, so fully realized, so confident in its execution, that it draws me in every time I listen to it. This opener was every bit as good as the album’s radio hit Black Metallic. Rob Dickinson also has one of the sexiest vocal deliveries of the genre.

8. Super Falling Star – Sterolab (Peng!)

The opener of their debut. You can just tell this was a band that would take you on a journey.

9. Sci-Flyer – Swervedriver (Raise)

This was almost the opener of the ICA, but then I thought, I love when the penultimate track on an album hits you from out of nowhere and lays you out flat. Your welcome.

10. Only Shallow – My Bloody Valentine (Loveless)

Sighted as/blamed for starting the genre with their Isn’t Anything album, My Bloody Valentine are so many things to so many people. They will always be “Gazers” to me, sometimes stretching boundaries, other times just playing to make a great racket. Only Shallow is among my favorites by them because it winds you up so tight and then spins you free.


And here are both sides of the ICA as stand-alone listens.  They work well, and I say that as someone who isn’t a huge fan of the sub-genre!! (JC)

Gazing and Dreaming: Side A (20:38)
Gazing and Dreaming: Side B (20:24)


  1. I’ve now composed myself from my initial, giddy rush of blissful excitement. To read of Cranes (one of my all-time favourite bands – ever) and of Moose (who provided me with one of my most memorable live nights out – not only due to their own performance but also their support act – The Cranberries).

    I’ve never, ever considered myself to be a shoegazer. At the time there were 2 pals who I’d say just soaked up this genre and in doing so brought many superb bands to my attention – one of them being Cranes. It seems I’m a closet shoegazer? Who knew? Ok. I had my suspicions – suspicions ably confirmed by this ICA.

    If I were to pick a track that doesn’t quite fit my expectation it would be Super Falling Star. A great song but maybe not in this particular field?

    Thanks for the Cranes inclusion. They are often regarded as a footnote which is quite the omission given their body of work and transfixing live performances.

    Glasgow’s finest shoegaze band? Arguably, Static.

  2. Some great openers there – particularly Ride, Chapterhouse and Swervedriver. And thank you for reminding me that it’s three years since I made a note to listen to Weather Diaries….

  3. Really looking forward to hearing this ICA. Like FFF I
    was chuffed to see Cranes get a mention – and to learn
    about the involvement of the mighty Moose in naming
    the genre.

  4. I heard a different story about the naming of shoegaze. I heard that it was coined by the head of Food Records Andy Ross and he repeated it to Steve Lamacq who printed it in the NME.
    Although I prefer the Moose story.

    Tremendous set of songs regardless

  5. Great selection from an (unjustifiably maligned) genre which I often return to and think “Why don’t I have more of this?” Now I know where to look! Mind you, brave man not to go for “Leave them all Behind” for the Ride track…

  6. FFF – I’m glad to find another Cranes fan. They were certainly underrated and under appreciated. I saw them just once at The Limelight in NYC. They played a great set, leaning on their darker and even industrial sounds, but there was a lot of nuance in the noise.

  7. @ Echorich. As far as I’m aware the band is officially still together – although with each passing year (without a new release) the hiatus seems permanent. I hope I’m wrong.

    I agree … under-rated and under-appreciated is an epitaph that suits them. Although they were certainly rated and appreciated within your ICA.

  8. Long-time reader but possibly 1st time poster.

    Incredible ICA! Many of these bands are top shelf.

    Would Moose’s “Little Bird (Are You Happy In Your Cage)?” count…how about the great Kitchens Of Distinction…perhaps a bit of “Sand On Fire”

    I’d also like to make my case for Lincoln, Nebraska’s finest, For Against. Best band you’ve never heard of but should. I’d recommend three incredible openers (Medication from Coalesced; Shadow from Shelf Life; and Don’t Do Me Any Favours from Aperture) though you’d be hard pressed to go wrong with any track here.

    I’ve always wanted to contribute my own ICA’s on several bands that should have a larger audience but don’t – The Sound, Sad Lovers And Giants, For Against, The Chameleons & Comsat Angels all top of this list – and I’m quite shocked no-one’s tackled the mighty Killing Joke to this stage.

    Well done!

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