Never Lose That Feeling #1 (Club AC30/Clairecords)
~reviewed by Stuart Moses
I can’t pretend I listen to many CDs full of cover versions, but this is an album I might make an exception for. Put together by the people behind a live music night in London, Never Lose That Feeling #1 features 16 contemporary bands covering shoegazing classics. This is an opportunity for people to discover the originators of the scene while simultaneously discovering what is happening now.
I was at the right age to love these noisy bands that mixed waves of feedback with enigmatic vocals. Sometimes these vocals were not entirely in tune, especially live, but that only added to the appeal. At the time it seemed difficult music to love, but that was another reason I liked it. Shoegazing only seems obscure if you’ve only listened to mainstream chart music of course. These bands were often stronger on atmosphere and emotion than they were on tunes your postman could whistle, but once again my teenage self considered this a good thing.
Even loving the genre that spawned this compilation – and many of the original bands having a special place in my heart - I approached this album with a little trepidation. I’m not a fan of covers. There is a difficult balance between making the song different enough to warrant a new version, but keeping it similar enough to actually be the same song. There are only a few reinterpretations that I think worth listening to.
Andrew Kenny opens the CD. Apparently he’s singer of a band called American Analogue Set. Equally his choice of song – “Angel Sigh” by Spiritualized isn’t familiar. I have a soft spot for Spiritualized as I saw them during my first week at University. The mix of intimate setting, extensive use of lights and all the hopes and fears I had about my new life have meant that this gig has left an indelible on my psyche. I just never got round to buying the records. Andrew’s downbeat, acoustic rendition has enough drug-influenced bleariness to mean it passes muster.
Next up is Windermere’s cover of Curve’s “Coast Is Clear”. I was a big fan of Curve, as indeed every indie-loving teenage boy was in the early 90s. This version is a masterclass in how cover versions should be done. What Windermere do should be taught in rock school. It should probably be a double lesson. They drop the tempo for the first half of the song. The lyrics as ever strike a cord: “Now I’m sick … always will be.” Then the FX-laden guitars arrive, three and a half minutes in, with all the power of the original. It’s different, yet the same.
Trouble Everyday get points for reinterpreting Slowdive’s “When The Sun Hits” radically. Unfortunately much of the original’s majesty is lost when the song is performed by New Fast Automatic Daffodils and Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine combined. It’s an interesting experiment nevertheless. Amusement Parks On Fire take My Bloody Valentine’s “You Made Me Realise” in a slightly more rock direction, which breathes extra life into the original.
Swervedriver are one of those bands that I never consciously chose to see live, yet saw play three or four times supporting other bands. Hearing Airiel’s version of “Blowin’ Cool” and The Feeling Goon Conspiracy’s “Son Of A Mustang Ford” on this compilation make me think it is about time I bought a Swervedriver CD. Perhaps the band would have been bigger if they’d had fewer fans like me that only realise their love 15 years too late. I don’t actually remember specific songs to be able to tell you how these covers compare, but they represent the rockier up-tempo, though still atmospheric, side of shoegazing. I’m looking forward to hearing more.
Medicine and Moose were bands I was aware of back in the day but I never consciously heard anything by them. Echo Orbiter’s cover of the former’s “Never Click” and Air Formation’s cover of the latter’s “Suzanne” suggest they were shoegazing by numbers, though I consider this a compliment rather than a criticism. I do wonder how much of my love is due to feelings of nostalgia. Would I like these songs more if I remembered them from the time? Or are both bands just indie also-rans? Both versions sounds good to waves-of-feedback friendly ears.
Even when I know people that liked shoegazing I never found anyone else that liked Ultra Vivid Scene. It seems I wasn’t alone in my appreciation of the band though, as this is the second cover of I have encountered. The first was by Psychophile on their Transition album. This version of “Mercy Seat” by Televise captures the magic of the Kurt Ralskie original, without adding or detracting especially from it. It’s such a great song that even listening to this version I am filled with wistful ecstasy. Why were Ultra Vivid Scene never huge, even in indie terms?
One thing that is easily forgotten is that while the emphasis was on atmospheres, these bands could write tunes too. Until you hear someone else sing the song this isn’t always evident. The vocals on Douglas Heart’s version of Slowdive’s “Alison” are a little more twee than the original – with a hint of The Cardigans – but the feelings of longing remain. Hinterland’s version of Lush’s “For Love” is faithful, though the singing is perhaps a little more in tune than the original. I’d forgotten what good songwriters Lush were and what good guitar FX they used. For all the ingénue singing there was some strong emotion in the guitars. South Ambulance cover Pale Saints’ “Kinky Love”, itself a cover of the Nancy Sinatra original. This is a speeded-up version of the song circa 1993. It’s interesting to hear the track taken in a different direction, but I miss some of the tinkly charm Pale Saints gave this song.
I try to live my life with as few regrets as possible, however I wish that the band I was in circa 1990 had done a version of Ride’s “Drive Blind”. Not only is the one-finger guitar solo that opens the song easy to play, it would also have been fun to have been the cause of such noisy chaos. It is impossible for me to listen to this song (any version) without turning the volume up. Heliconia add a dreamier/druggier edge to the verse, but leave the impeccable dynamics untouched.
The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa strip back The Telescopes “The Perfect Needle”. The experimental jazz flavour the band give it is an intriguing take. I’m not familiar with the original, but I can’t imagine it ever sounded like this. In a good way. Audiotransparent also slow down Curve’s “Frozen”, replacing the icy electronics of the original with country acoustics. A melancholy organ and violin add to the ambience. I’m sure that this wasn’t what Toni and Dean had in mind when they wrote the song, but I think it works magnificently.
Catherine Wheel are one of those bands
I loved at the time, but could never afford to buy. Their “Black Metallic”
was one of their strongest songs. Catherine Wheel went onto to disavow
their shoegazing beginning and moved in a metal direction. This version
by Plumbline gives the song a more trip-hop feel. There are electronic
squiggles where there used to be guitars, but the music soars just as before,
maybe just taking a different route. It’s a perfect climax to this album.
The website: www.clubac30.com