10 Shoegaze Albums Slowdive’s Simon Scott Thinks Everyone Should Own
Originally published by Consequence News
Crate Digging is a recurring feature that takes a deep dive into music history to turn up several albums all music fans should know. In this edition, Slowdive drummer Simon Scott goes through 10 essential shoegaze albums.
From the first tones of Slowdive’s summer return single, “kisses,” it became clear how influential the band has become throughout the last three decades. Elements of their rich, evocative guitar work, combined with the push-and-pull of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s vocals, are found in dozens of today’s established guitar acts. A shift towards an emphasis on mood, atmosphere, and “vibes” are at the core of this movement, and Slowdive are masters of the mood ring.
Their stunning new album, everything is alive, was deemed by the band as their “most hopeful record.” Though a few dark days and some contemplative energy made their way into LP, they’re frequently offset by moments of striking clarity, sun-streaked brightness, chord changes that bring both peace and intrigue. It’s yet another later career highlight for a band that just keeps getting better.
But to properly track how Slowdive have ended up here requires a look back at what spawned these blissful, emotionally-charged sonics in the first place. Speaking to Slowdive’s longtime drummer Simon Scott over a video call, he names several significant albums that, as he says, “blew his head off.” Quite a few of his selections are from bands that he and the rest of Slowdive have a fondness for — particularly My Bloody Valentine, Loop, and Sonic Youth. Several selections just happened to be released in the year 1988, which Scott claims was “the point where everything just collided and coalesced into this wonderful entanglement of dream pop, shoegaze, whatever you want to call it.”
For Scott, the new Slowdive album has been a long time coming, and the band worked intensely to craft a full sonic experience. His drums, which he demoed out on “a lovely Gretsch Maple kit” and subsequently reprogrammed for the sake of a more digitized, synth-oriented sound, were influenced heavily by electronic music. However, Scott maintains that everything evolved organically from jamming in the studio — chords, drums, and all.
As a studied shoegaze professional and a multi-instrumentalist, Scott is intimately versed in the music that influenced Slowdive, and his selections are full of hazy, eclectic, “blissed-up” gems. Check out his full selection of some of the best shoegaze records below. Slowdive is also set to tour off of the back of everything is alive, and you can pick up tickets here.
Cocteau Twins — Treasure
I actually first heard this band from either Melody Maker or NME, one of the British press had a seven-inch single stuck on the front page of the paper. And there was a song on it called “Ivo.” And I thought, “Who’s this Cocteau Twins? What’s this band about?” I played it and I was completely drawn into this other world that I’d never really encountered before. It starts with an acoustic guitar, which I presume is Robin Guthrie, who’s an amazing producer and amazing songwriter and guitarist. And then when her [Elizabeth Frasier’s] voice came in, it was so angelic, and so different to anything I’d heard, other than maybe a Kate Bush record coming through the wall from my older sister’s bedroom. I hadn’t really heard anything like that. And then I did some digging around and learned it was the first song on Treasure. So that’s the first album that I’d say is an essential shoegaze album. It came out on 4AD in 1984 and really blew my head off.
There’re so many great Cocteau Twins records; I bought Spangle Maker right after I bought Treasure, it’s got “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops” on it. And again, really, really important record for me. You know, probably a lot of people don’t know, but I also play guitar and stuff as well, and I had an acoustic, so it was one of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar. I could kind of figure it out and mess around with the tuning and kind of make it sound “Cocteau-sy.” I mean, it’s got so many good tracks, the production is so good. It’s got this really bombastic drum machine which really propels the songs, but I think the track I’m gonna have to say is “Ivo.” That’s the track that everybody should check out if that is a record that they haven’t heard so far in their lives.
Essential Track: “Ivo”
The Jesus and Mary Chain — Psychocandy
This came out a year later, and on the radio in the UK they used to have these kind of pop panels where you’d get like George Michael, if you were lucky it would be Morrissey, Robert Smith, Billy Bragg, etc. I can’t remember who the people were, but they were reviewing singles, and I heard this track called “Never Understand.” And one of the guys was going, “Oh my God, it sounds like someone’s got a chainsaw on metal,” like, “This is horrible”. But through William Reed’s feedback, I heard this beautiful kind of pop song, this punk-pop song. And then they said at the end of playing the track that they were called The Jesus and Mary Chain… even the name was super cool. I needed it, so I ran out and got it. But then came Psychocandy, I discovered it was from that record. And I think “Just Like Honey” on Pyschocandy, even though it’s a killer album from start to finish, it had that ethereal female vocal there backing Jim Reed in the middle eighth after the guitar-y bit, but it’s just a really, really strong beautiful song.
Pyschocandy is gnarly. I kind of grew up listening to my siblings’ record collections, and there was a lot of metal and a lot of hard rock like Zeppelin and Hendrix and stuff. So I could kind of embrace the noise, but it was something newer, something more punk-y and edgy and kind of dangerous. And I think at the time when it came out in ’85, Glasgow had a reputation for being like a really hard, kind of wet, dark vibe. So when I heard they were from there, I was like, “Okay, this makes sense.” These are sweet songs, but they’re from a really tough area of Glasgow. And yeah, I just dived into that record straight away.
Essential Track: “Just Like Honey”
Loop — Heaven’s End
I was toying with putting Kate Bush’s The Hounds of Love in here, which came out a kind of a similar kind of time, but it got beat by a band who I went and saw live, just after this record came out, and they looked cool. They sounded immense. And I really liked the house samples from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s Heaven’s End by Loop, which could be sort of slightly on the edge of shoegaze. They were hard and heavy, like The Stooges. So they could almost be perceived a bit like a rock band, but also a bit like a krautrock band, because they had those repetitive riffs, and really tribal, pulsating drums — they were quite long form for my ears at that age anyway (in ’87 I was 16).
It starts with “Soundhead,” and that’s got a really great, propelling kind of rhythm. But “Straight to Your Heart” is the essential track and there’s a breakdown in it that really kind of goes out into the ether. And I know that Nick in Slowdive, our bass player, really loves Loop, and Christian as well, our guitarist. They’re one of those bands that even though I grew up in Cambridge, and they were from 100 miles down the road in Reading, we were all at the same gigs. It’s really strange, and it’s weird that we never bumped into each other until 1989! But Loop were really big, big influence, even though they’re a lot heavier than Slowdive. They weren’t on a big label, and they weren’t particularly a big band either — but they were a big, big influence on us.
Essential Track: “Straight to Your Heart”
A.R. Kane — 69
This, I bought on cassette. I bought it because somewhere I’d seen the video, and it was very psychedelic. And I think that time, being 17 years old, was when someone gave me a great big bag of pot. And I was smoking a lot and listening to music and reading up about like music, bands I loved, writing, drumming, that kind of stuff. This track was like nothing I’d ever heard before. It was very dubby, had this cool as hell bassline. And they will refer to it as the “Black Mary Chain,” which is such lazy journalism, but I was definitely interested. They were obviously a little bit different to the other bands that I was really into. I think I went down into the city, which would have been either Cambridge or Peterborough, to pick this up and they only had the cassette. It’s called 69 by A.R. Kane.
“Baby Milk Snatcher” is just an unbelievably original track, and it’s actually a political track about how Maggie Thatcher stopped children getting free milk at school because she didn’t want to spend any money on the future of tomorrow. And at the time, I was thinking that I better start figuring out what politics are all about, why Thatcher was so evil. So that was a gateway into growing up a little bit, that album. But they’re amazing. Actually, we were just asked by Rudy [Tambala], who just moved down the road from me — he and I met for a coffee, and he’s like, “Do you want to do a Slowdive remix? You can do any track you like.” So I was like, I’d really like to do “Baby Milk Snatcher.” So he sent me all the stems, and then I realized that I can’t do better than this. I can’t improve this; this is one of those songs that’s perfection, and I love the whole album. Definitely check it out if you’ve not got that in your collection, because it’s wonderful. I did end up doing a remix, but for a completely different song, which is gonna see the light of day really soon on behalf of Slowdive.
Essential Tack: “Baby Milk Snatcher”
My Bloody Valentine — Isn’t Anything
Another one from 1988 — this seemed to be the point where everything just collided and coalesced into this wonderful entanglement of dream pop, shoegaze, whatever you want to call it. I love this band. They released a single called “Strawberry Wine” on Lazy Records. I liked their earliest stuff. But suddenly, the band signed to Creation [Records], and [Alan] McGee was raving about My Bloody Valentine. And I was like, “Oh my God, they’re gonna be on like my favorite label, Creation.” And then their first album drops while I was working in a record shop with some people that I was in a band with called The Charlottes, and we got it in and it had the free seven-inch single on the front. I grabbed my copy, left work really early, ran home, put it on the record player. And seriously, it totally blew my head off. And it’s really hard to pick a favorite track, because I actually prefer it to Loveless, even though Loveless is a masterpiece as well. Maybe it was my age, maybe it was just circumstances. I went to see them at the Fulham Greyhound supporting The Pastels, and again, Christian [Savill] from Slowdive must have been standing next to me, down in the front watching Kevin [Shields] and Colm [Ó Cíosóig].
It’s one of those albums that you need to listen to over and over again for it to really reveal itself, over a long space of time, because it’s almost quite private and you can’t quite grasp what’s going on. The vocals are really submerged down into the mix, the guitars are kind of gnarly… but there’s also some really sort of weird early Loveless-style guitars in there. That was just super exciting. It probably changes every day, my favorite song on this album. “All I Need,” is amazing, which is probably one of the more darker, ambient tracks on the record. It’s Bilinda [Butcher]’s song about abuse, and even though it’s dark, it’s really kind of gorgeous as well. I can hear loads of electronic ambient music and influence from some of those songs, funnily enough. “All I Need” is wonderful, but “Sue Is Fine is a great “crank it up, listen to it loud” song from Isn’t Anything. Great, great record.
Essential Track: “All I Need”
Sonic Youth — Daydream Nation
Another 1988 record. This is the first American band on the list, which is kind of weird, the rest are British. But Daydream Nation has everything; it’s got punk and noise and ambient, there’s a section in “Silver Rocket” that’s like the section in My Bloody Valentine’s “You Made Me Realize,” this noisy section where you can immerse yourself in sonic layers. I’ve always loved Sonic Youth and I really loved Sister, particularly the song “Schizophrenia.” And I’ve even got a few of the earlier ones, like EVOL and Bad Moon Rising.
When Daydream Nation came out with the green cover with the candle — it was a double album, and allegedly a concept record — I was like, “Okay, I can really spend hours getting totally immersed into this.” It’s got “Teenage Riot” on it, which is just this brilliant kind of punk-y pop song that’s kind of an anthem. There were so many good records in 1988, it was a really intense year. And I wasn’t in Slowdive then — I was in a little band called The Charlottes, and I didn’t meet the them until a year later. But you know, we’ve all got the same record collections. We all love Sonic Youth, Loop, My Bloody Valentine.
Essential Track: “Teenage Riot”
Spacemen 3 — Playing with Fire
This is another band that all of us in Slowdive love. Playing with Fire by Spacemen 3, 1989. I saw the video for “Revolution” on a program we had here called Snub TV. I knew of Spacemen 3, I had Sound of Confusion with “Mary Anne” and maybe a cassette of Perfect Prescription, and I loved them, but I knew they could probably do better. And Playing with Fire came out and it’s an absolute masterpiece, and it’s got all the kinds of bits of Spaceman that you really want, the whole psychedelic repetitions, the wonderful, dreamy, kind of drugged-out, blissed-up states of love, and kind of a calling to Jesus, a calling to God in their messed up moments of being intoxicated. And God knows whatever cocktails of drugs they were on, but it’s a brilliant record, with great artwork.
Some friends and I hopped on a train and went into London and saw them under Leicester Square, and again, some of Slowdive were there. They’d come in from Reading, I’d come down from Cambridge. We had loads of lager, walked down into the club, and it’s full of dry ice. I saw Sonic [Boom] through the smoke and all the psychedelic lights; he started pulsating and I could see Sonic’s bowl cut and his teardrop as he was tuning up, and then you could kind of see Jason [Pierce] on the side. It was so overwhelming, but they were amazing, one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live. I really wish they’d reform, I doubt they will, but that album Playing with Fire is so good. We’re playing a show with Spiritualized soon, and I’m so excited to see them. Jason is such a great songwriter, and Sonic’s textures, experimental open tunings, and vintage synths all blended perfectly.
Essential Track: “Suicide”
Talk Talk — Laughing Stock
So I’m jumping forward a little bit to 1991. And this record, I know that Neil [Halstead] of Slowdive really loves it, it was really inspired by Spirit of Eden that came out before. And that’s a wonderful record, but I think this record nails something that I had not really heard. And at that point, I was starting to explore more synth-y stuff like krautrock, Tangerine Dream, and some more synth-based music alongside to guitar music. And it was leading to me hearing references about jazz. I think Laughing Stock by Talk Talk has this kind of minimal, late-night jazz feel where Mark Hollis — I think he locked them in the studio all night long — put on some oils, they probably smoked a ton of drugs, and just jammed. It’s a beautiful, beautiful record. It’s really melancholic, as well. It’s got amazing drumming on it and had this incredible cover as well.
It’s a really great record, and it really changed me; suddenly, I ran out and I was buying Miles Davis records and exploring deeper kinds of music. At that time, we’d probably just finished doing the first Slowdive record. And I thought I can’t just listen to The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen, Loop, MBV, all the time — I wanted to hear some new stuff, and I was running out and buying Coltrane records on a whim and then hearing these references to other stars in music. It’s only a good thing as a musician and as a music lover when you just say, “I’m just gonna buy some of this stuff that I’m hearing is great.” “After the Flood” is a wicked one off this, but also check out Mark Hollis’ solo record. They got dropped straight after this record came out because it didn’t really sell and Polydor wanted a hit because they were a big pop band in the ’80s, and Mark kind of went even further and more minimal with his solo record.
Essential Track: “After the Flood”
My Bloody Valentine — Loveless
Loveless just blew everybody away. I loved the fact that we were on Creation and when that album dropped, I remember Alan McGee just being in the office and being like, “They’ve given me the master on this cassette. And I think it’s fucked, there’s something wrong with the cassette.” So he had a phone Kevin up apparently and go like, “Kevin, is this how you want it? Is this supposed to sound like this?” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s the whole point.” It really was original.
Live, they were astounding. My claim to fame was when we were playing at The Forum with Ride, a bouncer tried to kick me out and got really stressed and sort of stroppy with me, and really was manhandling me, almost punching me out of the building, and Colm [Ó Cíosóig of MBV] came over and grabbed me and said, “Are you okay?” and told this big bouncer to go fuck himself. Then he bought me a pint, and I was like, “Oh my God, they’re my favorite band,” and to have a guy come over stop you from getting beat and buy you a pint and it’s the drummer in your favorite band…
This band is truly one of the greats. I mean, everybody that’s heard Loveless, I’m sure you’ll agree, gets transported somewhere else. I play it all the time, still — that album came out in ’91; it’s an old record, and it sounds so contemporary and fresh and it influenced so many people.
Essential Track: “To Here Knows When”
Flying Saucer Attack — Further
This is one of my favorite bands from Bristol and is from 1995, it’s called Further, released on Domino. They’ve got so much good stuff, I think what’s beautiful about them, though, is they mix folk and this pastoral, English kind of vibe that maybe Nick Drake had. They were an incredible string band. Some people like that had this folky vibe, but the way that they recorded it was very much a home taping, very DIY, and it’s got so many beautiful songs on it and so many moments of gnarly noise to lose yourself in. It’s one of my favorite records.
I would pick “In the Light of Time” for an essential track, it’s beautiful. I love the intro as well. The intro is this wonderful, blissed-out, kind of sly guitar moment, and then it goes straight into “In the Light of Time.” But again, it’s another album that’s so wonderful that you can play it over and over again and it’s hard to choose just one track.
Essential Track: “In the Light of Time”