It’s remarkable how a disparaging term invented by the British music press in the late nineteen-eighties has come now to be worn as a badge of honour across the globe. Originating from a casual dismissal of a handful of largely unconnected Thames Valley bands, Shoegaze has grown to encompass a whole genre of music, with largely defined boundaries and a distinctive sound. What needs to be recognised by young bands is that though labels provide reference and offer a clear sense of identity, they can also be destructive; breeding complacency, and promoting the formulaic and predictable.
Melbourne’s Bloodhounds On My Trail are a young band already labelled as one of Australia’s top Shoegaze acts. They played their first gig only in February 2014 and released Escape, their debut EP, eight months later, following on from two popular digital demos. BOMT name both The Velvet Underground and The Stooges as influences, but it is difficult to trace a dark underbelly to their music on the four tracks here, and though they appear happy enough to throw an MBV haze over their songs, there are neither any traces of that band’s woozy psychosis. What we have in abundance is a desire to dip into the swirling dreams of early Slowdive; no bad thing in itself, but whereas the Reading quintet produced music of light and darkness, BOMT only manage light and occasional shade; their sound borders on the ephemeral, lacking in any great emotional depth. They sound like a band who have never endured a lousy wet autumn, or a biting winter and, to be fair, they probably haven’t. This is good weather music. ‘Jolly’ drifts by like a fluffy cloud caught in a brisk summer breeze, soon forgotten. There’s nothing wrong with that; it is pleasant while it lasts but it’s fleeting. Music should grab the listener by the throat, shake them about a bit and leave them crumpled on the floor. Or it should snog them until their eyes pop out. But when the guitars dance on ‘Dreamless’ it’s the picture of politeness: jackets on in a very formal affair.
There’s more needed, a bit of fire and a bit of threat. A desire not just to capture a sound, but to create one. Happily, there is greater substance to opening track ‘Old Fools’ and it’s hard to escape the feeling that this approach should have been investigated more thoroughly. Some lovely guitars serenade the rise and fall of Jonny O’Hara’s bass beneath a distorted backwash of noise, and when they usurp Johnny Green’s gentle vocals it sounds positively orchestral. It’s a rare uplifting moment, though fourth track ‘Silence, It’s Golden’ is draped in some neat bursts of distended guitar.
This EP is no bad starting off point for a young band, though it is hindered by illusory limitations and consequently lacks in bite and imagination. Boundaries are there to be pushed, not to constrain. Crash through them.