Our collective retro impulses have forward momentum. As we spend, say, two years rehashing the pop culture of 20 years ago, the window of what constitutes “acceptably old” pop culture expands by those same two years. So what’s to become of the artists who base their sound exclusively on specific moments in time? Austin trio Ringo Deathstarr made no bones about their allegiance to ‘80s/early ‘90s shoegaze and noise pop on their debut album Colour Trip and the early work compiled on Sparkler, both released last year. While these were innovation-free exercises, the attention to detail was hard to deny, from the garage rock stomp on the early Jesus and Mary Chain-derived material to the dreamy textures and light dance grooves on the My Bloody Valentine variations. Even the production carried the signature sound of bluster on a budget.
This four-song EP suggests that the gears of the band’s shoegaze retro impulse have turned forward ever so slightly from “mid-‘80s/early ‘90s” to simply “early ‘90s”. My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 classic Loveless still looms large among Ringo Deathstarr’s preoccupations, but Shadow is free of the band’s experiments in the blasted-out classic pop mode of Psychocandy, itself the result of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s own retro impulses in 1985. Instead, Ringo Deathstarr tracks the Loveless sound to its most obvious site of absorption in the early work of their recent tourmates, Smashing Pumpkins. There’s a Corgan-esque aggression to Elliott Frazier’s hollering on “Shadow”, and Alex Gehring’s cooing evokes D’Arcy Wretzky and Bilinda Butcher in equal measure. Even the band’s choice of cover, a noisy, reverential take on “Just You”, a song featured in one of the weirder scenes of Twin Peaks season two, is vintage 1991. The EP is rounded out by “Prisms”, an amorphous, noisy mood piece and “New Way”, a short, straightforward thumper punctuated by squealing feedback.
For anyone seeking new revelations to be unearthed from the shoegaze masterpieces of yore, look elsewhere. But, as with Ringo Deathstarr’s other releases, Shadow should satisfy those who wish there were just a few more My Bloody Valentine rarities to track down.
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// Notes from the Road
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