1991: the year shoegaze broke

January 5

Ride were Melody Maker’s first cover stars of the year. Inside, as part of his preview of the year ahead, Bob Stanley looked into his crystal ball and wrote the following, incredibly prescient words:

“1991 will hopefully see the full flower of the A.R. Kane/My Bloody Valentine dreampop blueprint, aided and abetted by the dancefloor’s most spooked and hallinogenic sounds. This is pure guesswork, of course, but sooner or later a new Space Rock will be borne out of these inspirations. It will be mesmeric and quite the most beautiful sound around. And maybe, hopefully, it will surface this year…”

January 19

Ride hit the big time as they played at Wembley Arena as part of the Great British Music Weekend on a bill topped by The Cure.

Read more about the show.

Watch some of the performance below.

January 21

Spacemen 3 released their classic single ‘Big City’, a 10-minute Kraftwerk meets The Electric Prunes mash-up which remains a timeless classic.

Even Homer Simpson is a fan…

Also, we scanned the design from the centre label to use on our very first release by The Tamborines back in 2006.

February 4

My Bloody Valentine released the Tremolo EP. Four (well, more, really) incredible tracks that, to 18-year-old me, seemed like they were beamed in from another planet. 

Melody Maker called it “an embarrassment of riches”; NME called it “art-wank, no talent, ‘shimmer rock’ bullshit”.

“What we’re attempting to do is keep other people’s opinions completely meaningless,” said Kevin Shields.

And they did.

Here’s a great, unedited version of their interview for Snub TV at the time:

February 10

My Bloody Valentine had a hit when the Tremolo EP entered the UK singles chart at Number 29. (In case you were wondering, The Simpsons were Number One with ‘Do The Bartman’.)

After playing ‘To Here Knows When’ on the Sunday night rundown, Radio 1 DJ Tommy Vance said how the record had “amazing atmosphere”, before claiming their new album would be out “in the spring“  😂

February 18

Slowdive released their second single ‘Morningrise’. In an interview with Melody Maker, the band said they chose it as the A-side over ‘She Calls’ and the sublime ‘Losing Today’ because “it was a better song to do a video for”.

Before getting EMF to wade in with their unbelievable and unwanted opinions, NME asked: “What’s the point? This sort of stuff was done to death by far abler characters some time ago and its corpse should be left to rot in the 4AD archives in peace”. 

Meanwhile, writing in Melody Maker, Bob Stanley said: “Slowdive have more potential than any other post-Valentines combo. As long as they don’t keep writing A-sides to fit their videos, they will create some of the most wayward and bejewelled records of tomorrow.”

And they did.

Kitchens Of Distinction released their Drive That Fast EP. Here’s the video for the title track, as broadcast on Snub TV on release day…

Also on Snub TV that day were Catherine Wheel, performing ‘She’s My Friend’ from their debut EP, which had been quietly released by Norwich’s Wilde Club Records at the end of January.

February 25

The Telescopes released ‘Celeste’, their third single for Creation Records, and one which bizarrely saw them accused of jumping on the baggy bandwagon. It actually added a swirl of psychedelia to proceedings, helped by Douglas Hart’s incredible epilepsy unfriendly video, which is still burned on my retinas all these years later.

It’s also worth pointing out the brilliance of the B-side ‘All A Dreams’, one of the band’s finest songs. As an aside: Stephen and Jo from the band were DJs at the first ever Sonic Cathedral night in 2004 and The Telescopes released their new album, Songs Of Love And Revolution, in February 2021.

March 2

Ride and Slowdive headed out on their sold-out UK tour, which had actually kicked off the previous night with a warm-up gig at Birmingham University Guild of Students Debating Hall. All for a mere £4.50 advance!

March 4

A big day for record releases, with Spacemen 3’s final album Recurring belatedly hitting the racks alongside the likes of The KLF and 808 State. But, for our purposes it was the release date for two pivotal shoegaze EPs.

Ride released their Today Forever EP. Still on the crest of wave following the release of their debut album Nowhere just five months earlier, these four new tracks were all absolutely perfect, the shark’s mouth on the cover showing the bigger bite of ‘Unfamiliar’ and ‘Beneath’. There was beauty, too, in the wistful drone of ‘Sennen’ and the stunning almost-title track.

This was a band at the absolute peak of their powers. The EP would enter the Official UK Charts at number 14, becoming Creation’s biggest hit to date.

“There’s nothing here that’s a patch on the latest Ned’s Atomic Dustbin single,” sniffed the NME, while Melody Maker (and Sounds) put the band on the cover once again and said that it was their best EP to date, and one that “draws you into a dreamy half-world, buzzing with noise”.

The second big EP was Blindfold, the debut release by Curve. Even though it was released on Eurythmic Dave Stewart’s Anxious Records label, the four tracks on it were darker and scarier and a whole lot more gothic sounding than anything on Creation and ‘Ten Little Girls’ even featured a rap from JC-001. It was totally ahead of its time, presaging the Alan Moulder-mixed Mary Chain sound of Honey’s Dead and also Garbage’s entire career.