Revivalism: the tendency to revive what belongs to the past. (dictionary.com) It would be hard to argue that this night of music wasn’t reviving an early ‘90s musical genre, but whether this sound should belong to the past is certainly up for debate. Of the four bands on the bill, School of Seven Bells were the least derivative and most rewarding.
Nu-gaze is the term used to describe the four American groups on the bill (in the end, only three bands actually showed up—it seems Magic Wand were missing in action for much of this tour). Comparing the sisters-and-dude trio that is School of Seven Bells to the Cocteau Twins isn’t a stretch. But where the first two bands seemed like cover acts, the Bells actually put the “nu” in nu-gaze.
I’m a huge shoegaze fan, and I feel like I’ve heard the Depreciation Guild before, when they were called Ride. [ed. Snap!] Derivative is too weak a word for this ersatz Pale Saints/Creation Records orgy of a band. On a positive note, they did have nice buttons for sale at the merch table. The first opening act, Warpaint, were melodic with lots of chord changes and plenty of buildups and slowdowns (but not in a Godspeed You! Black Emperor kind of way).
The Bells’ sequencer-driven songs added a modern take on the wall-of-sound style—not unlike Ulrich Schnauss, but with a darker pop feel. The Cocteau in the Bells comes from the crystalline harmonies of the sisters. Their voices, similar to that of Elizabeth Fraser (best known for her vocals with Massive Attack), add choir-like sonics that are impossible to ignore. Altogether, it wasn’t a grand show but simply a satisfactory one. Should shoegaze belong to the past? Not at all—but it’s tough to live up to the originals.