The High Violets
44 Down CD - Reverb

In the late Eighties the shoegazing school of dream poppers began making attention-grabbing music, and a hell of a lot of bands jumped on the wagon. Proto-gazers Cocteau Twins and Jesus and Mary Chain gave rise to the genre-defining My Bloody Valentine, whose considerable influence extended to Lush, Ride, Curve, Chapterhouse, Medicine, Slowdive, ad infinitum. The style can be simplistically generalized to breathy, emotionally distanced vocals, typically buried under enthusiastic, at times disturbing, and often very loud application of guitar pedals. I loved it, and grieve its unhappy demise. Which is why I wish this record was a lot better than it is. My first exposure to Portland, Oregon’s The High Violets came two years ago. While doing my part to undermine the international Music Industrial Complex, I Napstered an MP3 of a Violets’ song from the computer of a friend in England. That song, “Wheels,” which closes this record, is pretty nice. Someone in this band must have lifted a copy of a Gala-era Lush EP from his older brother before recording their debut, 44 Down. It has the sound of period ‘gazing, leaning toward the more ethereal, quiet and less disturbing (read, interesting) end. When paying such exacting respect to your idols you’re gonna be lost in their glow sans pretty exceptional ideas of your own. Therein lies the problem. What killed shoegaze, in the end, is its deceptive simplicity. Even when you get the sound down, without manipulating the underlying conceptual constructs it becomes unbearably formulaic. The true artists making this music moved on, as they do. And while The High Violets get high marks for loving some of the same bands I do, their record does not. My partner on occasion complains I invest too much attention in music which goes nowhere, citing (erroneously, mostly) the shoegazers as one example. I take umbrage at this, but admit 44 Down is stuck in a place to which few will want to journey. (Michael Meade)



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