Release date: 30th July, 2012
I like shoegaze and shoegaze likes me. I think. I haven’t been ill after a session on it, anyway. Not like Strongbow or neat vodka. It leaves none of that horrible aftertaste and you don’t wake up with a searing hangover, either. You can use shoegaze anytime you want as well. Like, say you feel like having a bit of shoegaze while you’re at work – go ahead. Do it. Have some. The opposite can’t be said for Strongbow, or vodka. You’ll probably get sacked. Try it if you want – many have – but shoegaze is a much safer alternative to ensure you keep your job and keep the pounds rolling in.
Shoegaze has been a vice of mine for a number of years. One of those bands that just wouldn’t let me kick the habit was, and is, Skywave. Skywave released three albums between 1998 and 2004, the last release being Synthstatic which, arguably, acted as a pioneer for the ensuing resurrection of shoegaze in its present-day form. It’s still a favourite album of mine, ever since the day I first heard it, and there’s nothing like playing it on full volume while you suck on a cigarette the morning after a late, too late, night.
After Skywave split, two bands were formed. Two fundamental bands to the shoegaze cause. Oliver Ackermann (bass) went on to form A Place To Bury Strangers and Paul Baker (guitar/vocals) and John Fedowitz (drums) went to form the somewhat understated band, Ceremony. (Not to be confused with the hardcore band with the same name that I reviewed here.) Ceremony first put out a self-titled EP, which was followed by the album, Disappear. Disappear was the first push into a European audience who were just starting to stir to the sounds of Ackermann’s project as well, and to the renewed sheen in the shoegaze genre as a whole. The album acted as a catalyst for the band to continue churning out their sound, which they did with the release of Rocket Fire.
With all three of these releases, the band had managed to slowly build a loyal fanbase. It had taken time, but the years had gathered up fans here and there like a cloth collecting dust from a derelict mantelpiece. Many Skywave fans were part of this collective, but there were other fans of the band who’d joined the burr of this continuation and movement of the shoegaze genre due to Ceremony’s ability to create a sound that was both laid-back yet incredibly intense and made you feel as if you were getting a head massage by a masseuse with iron fingers.
Yet, this new release isn’t a whole collection of new work. This is a collection of remastered tracks and lost tracks and recordings for the Ceremony EP and Disappear. With the band finally getting recognition and with their profile ascending, it’s inevitable that fans would have been searching for these forgotten glimpses of the band’s past so it’s a wise move. However, there are new tracks on show, too, which tell us that the Ceremony’s next release will be worth the – two year – wait.
Dull Life sees Baker delivering lingering, catchy lines such as ‘How many times will I say I’m sorry?’ in his trademark tired drawl that rekindles images of lost nights and forgotten days with burning eyes and aching limbs. The remastering of the track has added extra bite to the soaring guitar and deep, embedded bass and chattering drums, making for a cleaner, more gratifying listen.
It’s on No Good For You and Without Your Love that the band’s brutally concise and demandingly robust aspects filter through. The drums collapse the shadows of the guitar riff apart, while the guitar climbs back through the tracks and steps warily between the gin-soaked footprints the drums have left behind in the dim lighting of Baker’s comedown vocals in No Good For You while Without Your Love hides an anarchic post-punk spirit behind a lovely amalgamation of feedback and distortion.
There are so many tracks here that to go through them all would take me about two days so the above are the stand-out tracks from the remastered section while the following are the new selections we hear on this album.
Throw Your Love Away is soaked in pent-up drone that leaves you closing your eyes and basking in the glory of down-tuned guitars while Love Is Fiction has a bassline that pops and crashes against the wall of sound the dreamy guitar creates.
This is an album that will be a must for fans of Ceremony and Skywave, but the sheer length of it all may not attract new fans. However, if you need a fix of shoegaze almost every day (like me) then you’ll definitely enjoy this album and will be playing it until the next dose of Ceremony appears.