Monday, June 13, 2016

Artist: Lady

Dark blue storm clouds can be stunning. But they're usually impressive, in part, because you see them in person, and rarely. They'd be far less appealing as photographs. (Imagine flipping through pictures of only slightly different clouds.)

It's just like shoegaze. I could sit there in front of speaker columns, mouth open, gobsmacked by the torrent waves of distortion that impart real physical force. Then again, I could have to review 20 shoegaze bands, and end up wanting to shoot myself in the face. Lady is the cumulonimbus, 10 miles high, right outside your door: And here's my roundabout way of saying why.
Let's continue a bit with the storm cloud motif. Because reading about the hallmarks of shoegaze had me trying to nail down my first experience with the genre. And I think it was A Storm in Heaven, the Verve's debut. Even listening now, I hear the first distorted chord ring out, and can see the Disc Replay. I sense the impending guitar atmospherics, and smell the CD listening station.

But the lesson here is not that the Verve rules. In fact, I'd hesitate to name a winner between them and the Verve Pipe, until I had serious listens to both. Instead, the takeaway is that for a band with a shoegaze debut like the Verve, they had to add pop before listeners everywhere would deep-dive their back catalog (to stumble on their shoegaze roots). Actually, in the case of the Verve, they had to force Jagger & Richards against their will into the songwriting credits before anyone cared:

The history of shoegaze is fairly short, and My Bloody Valentine figures prominently. But one wonders whether the scene would have amounted to much if MBV wasn't as dynamic as pop – the sonic signature of “Only Shallow” as singular as any pop hook. And it is here that we finally turn to Lady. Lady opens its debut EP, Washer, with tidal waves of chords that are sure to please legions of shoegaze faithful, before opening up with melodic guitar embellishment (at 4:41 of “Creatures of the Night”) that could convert a headphones-listener or two. And they sustain interest with flashes of darkness (at 2:29 of “Can't Stay”), which wouldn't sound out of place on Sonic Youth's “Death Valley '69” (Bad Moon Rising version).

But it all comes together on “Things Are Wrong,” which serves to remind that dynamism in shoegaze can add radio listeners while enthralling live audiences. The song is different from the start. Nary a chordal wave till 1:27. And the vocal similarities to Bradford Cox – heard on “On My Mind” at :41 – have me thinking... Lady is the thunder and lightening to the woozy haze that is Cox's Deerhunter/Atlas Sound. And that should please virtually everyone – whether under headphones or at stage's edge.

*** The author of this review, Russell Hughes, plays the mrdanga for the following band:

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