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Is there a link between punk and shoegaze?


Marked by its lush and dreamy wall of sound, shoegaze originated in the late 1980s in the U.K., emerging as a branch of the contemporary neo-psychedelic movement gaining momentum in those days.

At first glance, the quiet soundscapes of this genre might appear worlds away from the all-out aggression of punk. Still, the connection between the two was apparent right from the outset. Early proponents of shoegaze, such as members of bands like Swervedriver, Cocteau Twins, and My Bloody Valentine, allowed their punk backgrounds to creep in, infusing elements of dissonance and distortion into the otherwise celestial domain of their music. In addition, most of these bands embraced the same D.I.Y. ethos of the punk scene. They self-produced their records, booked their own gigs, or teamed up with fledgling independent labels outside the mainstream recording industry.

The haunting sonic drift of shoegaze music isn’t too dissimilar to a droning 3-chords punk riff. Both approaches favored a visceral intensity, focused on making a statement. While punk emerged in the 1970s as a response to the perceived excesses of mainstream rock, shoegaze appeared as a reaction to the glossy production and commercialization of pop music, aiming to create a more introspective sonic experience without necessarily going confrontational.

At its best, punk is not a strict creative formula but more of an attitude - the will to pursue individuality. This is why shoegaze could be considered a form of punk to some extent. Later down the line, many bands successfully blended heavier music with shoegaze, lending some credibility to the thesis. The bottom line is - when a punk rocker buys too many guitar pedals, the new rig can lead to a transformation of their sound and approach to music, staying true to the attitude but expanding the palette in exciting ways. After all, bands like Joy Division, The Cure, or Sonic Youth took punk further by experimenting with different effects such as fuzz, delay, reverb, and modulation to create new sounds not typically associated with punk music before. In much the same way, artists like Slow Crush, Dead Rituals or Nothing have managed to blend in a heavier format with the otherwordly landscape of shoegaze music.


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