Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Keeping The Dream Alive

A few days ago I was reading a post at How Not To Write About Music about a London-based band called Hurtling, variously described as alt-rock, shoegaze and dream pop. There's some considerable Venn Diagram overlap in that but I thought Everett had the right of it when he name-checked Madder Rose. I can hear those echoes.

They're currently picking up some wildly enthusiastic reviews for their debut album, Future From Here, although not everyone is going nuts about them. I like what I've heard well enough, although I wouldn't go putting out any flags quite yet.

But I didn't come here to talk about Hurtling. Not today, anyway. I'm more interested in what happened after I read about them.

For some reason, rather than just watching the embedded video in the post, I clicked through to the YouTube source and found myself falling down a dream-pop rabbit hole. (I had a joke here but it was so labored I had to take it out. You can thank me later).

Anyway... I watched three or four of Hurtling's videos, each of which I liked a little bit less than the one before. So I started browsing the suggestions to see what else might be new.

YouTube's recommendation algorithm is notorious flaky. It comes up with some jaw-dropping non-sequiters but I love it all the same. I've found so many great bands and performers through that sidebar. 

I tend to go for odd names and boy, were there were plenty: Wayne's So Sad, Mary See The Future, Hello Nico... plus a whole boatload I couldn't even read, like 大園國際高中 熱門音樂社 期末成果發表 and 万能青年旅店. (That's "Dayuan International High School Popular Music Club Final Results " and "Universal Youth Hostel" according to Google Translate).

I started with Wayne's So Sad but I didn't take to them. Say Sue Me sounded like an odd name for a non-Western band even by the high standards already established so I tried them next and that went down a lot more smoothly.

While they played I glanced at a few of the things people had posted about them. I may have mentioned before how much I enjoy YouTube's much-derided comments. I generally find them not only entertaining but useful, too. You can get a lot from them, one way or another.

What I got this time was an idea for a blog post. There was a comment by someone called Jimmy Stetler that got me thinking. It read, in full, "HELLO Dream Pop. Glad young bands are keeping it alive. These guys are excellent."

It's odd, isn't it? When you stop to think about it. The way musical trends and movements just keep going.

Dream pop is what C86 grew up to become but the C86 phenomenon, such as it was, began and (you'd have thought) ended over thirty years ago. What is it that makes people who weren't even born until a decade after a movement peaked decide, when they discover it, that it's their sound? If I'd done that when I started a band in my late teens, instead of punk we'd have had to play... what? Swing?

Even more puzzling, why does it keep happening, all over the world, in countries that never had any connection to the original scene? Say Sue Me are from Korea. The rest of the bands in this post are Taiwanese except the last lot, who come from Japan.

Okay, Japan probably did have some C86 -influenced bands in 80s but the others? I kind of doubt it.

I picked all of them pretty much at random, going mostly by the names and the thumbnails. YouTube animates those now, like they were GIFs. Not sure how I feel about that...

It's not as though there was much else to go on. Almost all the text other than the names was in Mandarin. Well, I'm assuming Mandarin. Google Translate just says "Chinese". I had Translate ready to make some sense of the various Bandcamp, Facebook and similar sources that came up when I tried to check who these bands might be, where they might come from and whether they were still going.

It was kind of the point that they were still going - or at least had been until very recently.  I was trying to prove to myself that, as Jimmy suggested, the dream really was still alive, so I was focusing on videos from the last twelve months or so. And while I was doing that I thought of the post title and knew I'd have to write the damn thing.

Choosing the bands took less than an hour. It could have taken a lot less if I hadn't spent so much time googling as I went. Honestly, I could have thrown a dart at my monitor and hit a dream pop band almost every time. And broken my monitor and possibly set the house on fire. Good thing I didn't do that. But there are hundreds of them.

Not that I'd really call all everything I ended up going with "dream pop". Say Sue Me and DSPS seem to be heartland twee/C86. The Fur and Super Obvious (or Obviously - the correct translation seems to be in dispute) are dream poppy for sure. Hormoneboys seem to shade from dream into some kind of woozy, 80s indie funk, with just a hint of whatever it is that Rex Orange County calls that thing he peddles. I've never been exactly sure what that is.

Astro Bunny is more just "pop" than dream pop, I think, although quite ethereal and very lovely but by the time I hit Deca Joins I'd clearly lost the thread. Are we at chillwave, now? As for No Buses, that's 90s indie with a strong post-Britpop vibe, surely?

All musical categories are notional, of course, although I do find it entertaining, trying to keep up with them. In the end all that matters is whether something sounds good. I think everything I've linked here passes that test admirably.

I picked the videos on Sunday after I got the EverQuest II dragon illusion/mount for my second character on Sunday and I put the post together in the gaps between dragons on Monday and Tuesday evening. Combining three separate hobbies (obsessions if you prefer) - MMORPG gaming, music and blogging - makes for a potent and satisfying cocktail.

I've linked the various social media and related sources at the end just in case anyone's interested, which I sincerely doubt. Not really bothered about that. I had a lot of fun doing this and it's my little contribution to...

Keeping the dream alive!










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