Of all the genres I can remember getting into during my youth, shoegaze was perhaps the one that gets the least respect over time. Back about 20-some years ago, when I'd hit up Vinyl Ink Records in Silver Spring, Maryland, I was looking for something that gave me a rush as a listener. In a shop where some of the employees were destined to make great music (Mike from Slumberland Records worked there at one point, as did Mike from criminally-underrated D.C. area band The Ropers), the thing that bonded so many customers and employees was a love of shoegaze stuff. And even a few years before people used the term to describe the music of My Bloody Valentine and The Telescopes, there was a certain strain of feedback-heavy tune-age that seemed borderline revolutionary. And that's why we were flipping the racks looking for import CD singles from bands like Pale Saints, My Bloody Valentine, Moose, and Chapterhouse.
But, alas, the revolution was an inner one 'cause shoegaze had staying power but it hardly changed the landscape the way that harDCore, or even grunge, did. And over the course of time, as bands like Cocteau Twins were getting pegged as part of the genre, one realized that the term had lost its vibrancy and so had the style.
Which is a long way of saying that I'm excited about shoegaze again for the first time in years 'cause this new album by Beliefs is so freakin' good. Leaper, out in about 10 days on Hand Drawn Dracula, simultaneously nods in the direction of your past faves while assuredly expanding the form. Little did I know when I blogged about this band once a few years ago that they'd return with such a pure distillation of the shoegaze vibe.
If "Tidal Wave" blazes out of the gate like Medicine doing their nearly note-perfect MBV impression, then "1992" is the best MBV song I've heard since the year of the title, even if Loveless dropped in Fall '91 in reality. "Colour of Your Name" drops some beats like those more memorable Chapterhouse tracks, while "Drown" nods in the direction of non-shoegazers Smashing Pumpkins circa Gish.
None of what I'm writing in this review is meant to suggest that Beliefs are stuck in the past (even if they might be); What's really going on here is that Beliefs have so expertly mastered the form of shoegaze -- from when the form was still fresh -- as to make a listener thoroughly fall in love with this genre all over again. If you weren't already Beliefs junkie at the mid-way mark of Leaper, then the Doves-hook of "Ghosts" -- an obvious future single -- was sure to seal the deal. If "Go Ahead and Sleep" reveals that members of Beliefs have certainly heard a few Cocteau Twins albums before, then closer "Swooner" throws their allegiance firmly behind "To Here Knows When"-era My Bloody Valentine, complete with MBV-like title.
Look, let's be honest here: normally I'd scoff at anything that attempted to update shoegaze for the 21st Century (while clutching my copy of Isn't Anything) but, dammit, Leaper is so seamless and perfectly representative of the best stuff from this genre -- and Beliefs so good at making this sort of music -- that I can only nod and offer up my unabased enthusiasm for this record. If you have even a passing interest in shoegaze, this is a masterpiece of sorts.