Tripwires: Spacehopper

Tripwires take elements of shoegaze and other familiar indie sounds of the last 20 years, and turn them into one of the year's best debuts.



Label: Frenchkiss
US Release Date: 2013-06-18
UK Release Date: 2013-06-17

Tripwires name Neil Young, Yo La Tengo, and Talk Talk as influences. Listening to Spacehopper, the debut album from the quartet out of Reading, England, those are not necessarily the first names that come to mind. The album was recorded in Brooklyn but couldn't sound farther from it. Tripwires are a shoegaze band whose sound has also been filtered through the more arty strains of 1990s indie rock and Britpop.

They are good at it, too. Though they were still in primary school when their forebears first roamed the earth, Tripwires are a good fix for those who still get a rush out of the electrically-charged space travel rock'n'roll of Swervedriver, Catherine Wheel, and the like. They are more than just a rehash, though. Instead, Spacehopper is a nice distillation of influences. It has its own identity, though the elements that combined to form it are so readily apparent they bear mentioning.

Shoegaze does not seem to be such a dirty word these days. As far as it goes, the title track opener leaves little mystery as to what you are in for. A steady, quiet pulse slowly becomes awash in a swell of smoldering guitar effects and simple yet ominous chords. By the time its three and a half minutes are up, "Spacehopper" has ignited into a deafening, thrilling buzz-bomb. "Love Me Sinister", though overlong, is a pretty study in mood-setting and generally pondering things while ring modulators and sundry other guitar effects gurgle and hum. Meanwhile, "Tinfoil Skin", with its elliptical, dubby bassline, shuffle rhythm, and breathy vocals, could literally be a lost track from Chapterhouse's Whirlpool album. That is, until it reaches its ungainly, ear-piercing extended coda.

So what of Tripwires' and Spacehopper's own identity, then? Well, the band are clearly not stuck in a circa-1991 vacuum. The album takes in elements of the more atmospheric, emotive, sometimes even muscular indie rock which shoegaze, in its own way, helped inform. Several songs surge with the streamlined guitar power reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins in their heyday; or maybe, from Tripwires' perspective, Silversun Pickups. At the same time, "Shimmer" sways along melodically and with a distinctly British sense of grandiosity that recalls the glammy pomp of Suede, while "Paint" is an unabashed yet totally effective anthem that surely takes Muse as well as 1990s Radiohead into account.

Spacehopper even has a couple unexpected, if not exactly shocking, twists. "Fold me up and sew me at the seams/ Stick me to your body like a leach," sings Rhys Edwards on "Feedback Loop of Laughter", amid a combination of warm acoustic guitars and odd effects. The words and delivery recall vintage Placebo, as does the heavier, snarling chorus. "Under a Gelatine Moon", with its squishy synth-like noises, stomping rhythm, and gurgling underwater guitar, is essentially psychedelic rock, but with sensitivity in the vocals and delivery, as Edwards croons, "I wanna lie with you/ Without moving." It doesn't get any more shoegaze than that. Still, "Catherine, I Feel Sick" conjures a swirling, cathedral majesty that transcends any tag, and "Slo Mo" is the kind of melancholic, slide guitar-featuring comedown album closer that seems obligatory from psych-minded Americana bands these days.

If all this seems like a game of "spot the reference", well, in a sense it is. But it is a fun and rewarding game. And when Tripwires finally get around to that late-period Talk Talk sound, on "Wisdom Teeth", it becomes clear this is one influence the band still have to grow into. Overall, though, the songs and production help render Spacehopper more than the sum of its parts. Another big factor, maybe the most important, is Edwards. His nasal, piercing voice deals in a kind of studied, no-nonsense melodrama that is, again, quintessentially British.

There are a lot of "neo-shoegaze/dreampop" bands out there. Spacehopper proves Tripwires more effective than most at stepping out from under that umbrella without abandoning it. It is likely one of the best rock debuts you will hear in 2013.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.