Yes, that's what it was called. I say "was" because most
of the bands that made up the Shoegazer "movement" are
no longer in existence. The Shoegazer era is generally considered
to have begun in the late 1980's and to have ended around the mid-1990's.
There are a few bands today that play essentially in the same style
as the Shoegazer bands, but they are mostly classified in the genre
of "Dream Pop," "Space Rock" or "Slowcore".
Most fans believe the movement began in Britain, particularly in
a part of North London called Camden Town. However, there were significant
US bands at the time with the same style.
It is hard
to accurately describe Shoegazer music, but in general, the style
is defined by noisy, distorted guitars often recorded in layers,
even incorporating feedback. The vocals are generally buried low
in the mix, and lyrics are sometimes indecipherable. The vocals
usually provide the melody line, and often play the role of another
instrument, rather than focusing on lyrical content. The name "Shoegazer"
seems to have been used to describe the way most of the bands played
to an audience -- lost in the music, staring down (particularly
guitarists, working with different effects pedals). The name is
thought by some to have first been used in Britain's music magazine
New Musical Express (or NME).
was mostly influenced by two bands from the mid-80's: The Cocteau
Twins and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Many point to the Cocteau Twins'
1982 release Garlands and the 1986 release Victorialand
as prime Shoegazer influences. With the The Jesus and Mary Chain,
their first LP, the classic Psychocandy released in 1985,
was a prime influence.
The album that
really seems to be considered the "landmark" Shoegazer
record is the 1991 release Loveless by the group My Bloody
Valentine. The album is still considered one of the the best records
of the '90's. The British band RIDE's 1990 album Nowhere,
which included the song Vapour Trail, is considered another
Shoegazer classic. Lush's album Spooky (1994), Slowdive's
Souvlaki (1994), The Boo Radley's Giant Steps
(1993), and Chapterhouse's Whirlpool (1991) are all considered
essential Shoegazer music. Other important bands that were considered
part of the scene were Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver and Pale Saints.
Even The Verve,
who broke into the US mainstream market in 1997 with the song Bittersweet
Symphony, are considered to have evolved out of the Shoegazer
era, particularly with their first LP A Storm In Heaven
(1993). I have to admit, after hearing A Storm In Heaven,
I could hardly believe that it was the same group that recorded
the Urban Hymns CD that included Bittersweet Symphony.
You can barely hear Richard Ashcroft's vocals over the distortion
on A Storm In Heaven.
There are some groups still in existence today that would easily
fall under the genre of Shoegazer. Groups such as Bethany Curve,
Sigur Ros, Spritualized and Air all have distinct Shoegazing characteristics
in their music.
by My Bloody Valentine (1991) - Considered a Shoegazer classic