I was about 13 years old and hanging out in my older brother’s bedroom; the year was about 1993 or 1994. I was looking through his dubbed cassettes and playing with his guitar when he turned to me and said, “Listen to this CD my friend let me borrow. It’s crazy”. He popped the CD into his stereo, hit play, and suddenly this cacophonous, blurry, hallucinatory music came oozing out of his speakers. It sounded like music that drugged-up insects would make as part of some bizarre apoidean religious ritual; it sounded like Lady Galadriel and Lord Celeborn having sex; it sounded like the bliss one is purported to experience just before drowning; it sounded like nothing that I had ever heard before. “What is this?” I asked cautiously. “They are called My Bloody Valentine”, my brother replied matter-of-factly. “They are from England.”
It would be many years before I met anyone else who was as entranced by My Bloody Valentine as my brother and I were; it would be even longer before I heard the term “shoegaze” as a genre description. Nowadays, there are seemingly bizzillions of young bands who want to sound like Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine, and there will be even more now that the excellent m b v has been dispatched. Few of them do it as well as No Joy on their wonderful new record, Wait to Pleasure.
Many, many neo-shoegaze bands approximate the blissed-out, dreamy sound they are going for and stop right there. They forget to write songs, and go exclusively for the sound and the atmosphere. While I sympathize with where these bands are coming from, there is really no good reason to make music of that kind, and it gets boring pretty darn quickly. No Joy do not fall into this trap; they harness the gorgeous, droning vocals and waves of layered guitars that My Bloody Valentine perfected with Loveless and write captivating, catchy songs within the sound.
What is more, No Joy toss in other genre references outside of the official shoegaze cannon to keep things fresh and invigorating. Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd, the duo who make up No Joy, have clearly taken note of the success of fellow Canadians Purity Ring and incorporated a good deal of their pop witch house sound into their own. This tendency is particularly clear on mid-album highlight “Blue Neck Riviera”, which slithers and undulates with dance floor readiness. No Joy also incorporate plenty of Sonic Youth-like squall into their songs; an important component of the original shoegaze sound that so many neo-shoegazers forget. Wait to Pleasure is noisy, and sexy, and beautiful all at the same time, which is exactly how shoegaze in 2013 should be.
Most of the songs on Wait to Pleasure are short and sweet, and the album as a whole will leave you hitting the replay button repeatedly. This is music for drowsing in the sun, and for getting a summertime party started. It has energy and intimacy. It is dark and happy simultaneously. While I can envision the music on their iPods pretty clearly, they really make the most out of what can be a slavishly derivative genre. With any luck Wait to Pleasure will take off in the same way that Purity Ring’s lovely Shrines record did last year. I am envisioning a 13-year-old kid sitting down with an older sibling’s iPod, hitting the play button on Wait to Pleasure, and having her mind thrown down a shimmering, cavernous well of shoegaze from which they will never fully emerge.