[12 January 2011]
In the late 90s, dreampop and shoegaze seemed destined for the history bins. Their marginal time in the spotlight as the scene that celebrated itself had seemingly passed, and even the artists themselves seemed done with it. Britpop nicked the massive guitar wail and slapped some drunken pub rock shenanigans in front of it, thereby desecrating any attempt to take the music seriously. Original scenesters who were still around started to umbrella into new sounds like trip-hop, post-rock, IDM, alt-country and the like. And somewhere out there, somewhat inconsequentially, a cutesy little outfit called the Autocollants were making twee, K-Records style indiepop with little indication that they had even noticed all the noise.
In 2008, a group of old friends who used to be members of the Autocollants decided to start a new project called Tears Run Rings, which was a precise simulation of the second generation shoegaze music that had made such crushing waves nearly two decades earlier. By this point, shoegaze references were everywhere—in heavy metal, in basement psychedelia, in electronic dance music—and they were soon to be hybridized into southern hip hop. In addition, shoegaze itself was again a living, breathing genre. Its replicators even established boutique stores (ToneVendor) and specialty labels like Tears Run Rings’ home Clairecords.
On the best moments of Distance, even moreso than on their debut Always, Sometimes, Seldom, Never, Tears Run Rings sound like a pretty accurate facsimile of Slowdive. The band may claim to have added a “Madchester” influence to this record (rewinding their sonics even further back in history), but this mainly amounts to some manic dancey drum licks on cuts like “Reunion”, a tactic Chapterhouse and their lot were pulling off with variable success at the time this type of music originally came out. However lacking in imagination Tears Run Rings may sound, who here is not clamoring for a series of Slowdive B-sides? At their worst (the dull “Compromise”, the momentum-killing “Distance”), the band evokes the disorganized, half-hearted ethereality of Just for a Day rather than the pinnacle dynamics of the shuddering Souvlaki. At their best (the male-female vocal trading tremolo-led “Forgotten”, the nursery-esque chord progression of the Cranes-esque “Divided”), you can squint your eyes and pretend it’s 1993 eternal.