Since the resurrection of My Bloody Valentine all manner of bands from across the globe and across the popular music genre landscape have been jumping on the shoegazer bandwagon, and why not? My Bloody Valentine totally rules. I know it, you know it, the friggin’ cat knows it. So did Slowdive, Ride and the Cocteau Twins for that matter. A great many of the bands that have been unimaginatively ripping off the sounds of those bands without stepping up to the plate in terms of songwriting, however, do not really rule that much. On the other hand, you have neo-shoegaze bands like Alcest, Asobi Seksu and No Joy who have been fearlessly updating and in some cases even improving upon the shoegaze genre template.
What is cool about the Kissaway Trail is that they are not really ripping off My Bloody Valentine that much, but rather mining a little bit deeper into late ‘80s and early ‘90s shoegaze and dream pop for inspiration. I am pretty sure that they are into the Field Mice and Northern Picture Library, which is awesome, because I have a soft spot in my heart for those bands. Remember Rollerskate Skinny? Me too! And so do the Kissaway Trail, in a good way. Breach is the new record from the Kissaway Trail and it sounds like something the guy working behind the counter at Tower Records with the Robert Smith hair would have put over the PA in about 1991.
I would not go so far as to say that the Kissaway Trail have constructed a particularly innovative sound but they do write catchy songs and that is more important. I would give the Kissaway Trail a pretty good shot at landing a slot on the next Sofia Coppola movie soundtrack with songs like ‘Beauty Still Rebels’ and ‘Cuts of Youth (Razor Love)’. Breach does a lovely job of sounding both murky and ethereal; an important but difficult combination of affects for the genre in question. Plus, the Kissaway Trail are from Denmark, which makes a lot of sense, because the Nordic countries have really never let me down in the popular music department and I don’t expect them to anytime soon.
If heavy reverb, warbling, early Flaming Lips-style vocals and delicate acoustic guitar floating up out of the murk gets your motor running, then Breach is probably the record for you. But Breach is definitely one of those records that works a particular branch of a particular genre with skill but very little ingenuity. It is very successful at conjuring up sounds, images, and feelings from the early 1990s. What I cannot help but wonder though is this: what does someone who has never listened to the abovementioned bands or the genre in question make of the Kissaway Trail? Breach seems so steeped in early ‘90s nostalgia that it is hard for me to hear what someone without access to that nostalgia might hear. Taking the listener back to the Good Old Days is all well and good, but what if the listener is question was listening to Tribe Called Quest or Morbid Angel instead of Rollerskate Skinny and Mercury Rev in the early ‘90s? What if the listener was not born yet in 1991? Will this stuff totally knock their socks off and sound new and innovative, or will it just sound dusty and unnecessary? I can’t say for sure, but these are good songs, genre conventions aside, so I doubt that very many people will label Breach irrelevant.