I was practically rabid with anticipation for this boxset, having been a big shoegaze fan during most of the 2000s. The prospect of a five-disc set from the genre’s prime, heavy on deep cuts, was tantalizing. Would Still In A Dream turn me on to a bunch of bands I’d never heard of who were as good as Ride, Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine but, for one reason or another, never got much attention? Would I be spending the next few months buying music from all the great bands the boxset introduced me to?
Well, no. As much I was hoping for Still In A Dream to be a big winner, it’s kind of a mess, with some serious negatives that far outweigh the positives. First, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: there’s no My Bloody Valentine songs found here. While it seems strange to have a shoegaze boxset without the band most synonymous with the genre (especially when the title Still In A Dream comes from a My Bloody Valentine song) I’m actually OK with this. It reminds me of a similar situation a decade ago, when Rhino put out an excellent punk rock boxset without any Sex Pistols songs. Besides, it’s a pretty safe bet that anyone shelling out $40-50 for five CDs of shoegaze already has the key My Bloody Valentine albums in their collection.
Next up are the obligatory genre-compilation complaints over who the compliers did and didn’t include in the tracklisting. I can think of a couple of bands that probably should have been included, but weren’t, such as Teenage Filmstars, For Against, Sugar, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and Springhouse (whose drummer – and Big Takeover publlisher – Jack Rabid contributed liner notes). But more glaring is the surprisingly long list of bands found here that don’t belong. Sure The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Luna, Spectrum and Sonic Boom all explored shoegaze-friendly sounds during this period, but they were never called shoegaze. By including them, you might as well include Primal Scream, Dinosaur Jr or The Verve.
Now, here’s the real problem. By having 87 songs and featuring each band only once, the compilers dig too deep into what’s essentially a sub-genre. This means a ridiculous amount of time spent sifting through weak material from bands like Curve or Swirl to find an occasional gold nugget I’d never heard before (Loop, Kitchens Of Distinction, Whipping Boy, and Seefeel all impressed enough to warrant further investigation).
Now that I’ve listed Still In A Dream’s shortcomings, here’s how it could have been better:
*Include multiple tracks from the better bands. What would make a stronger listen and tell the story of the genre better, a second song from a brilliant band like Ride or “Godlike” from the rightfully forgotten band The Dylans (who weren’t shoegaze anyway)? Case closed.
*Open up the set beyond 1995. There’s been a ton of great shoegaze since 1995 to choose from, and by including those songs you weed out the lesser ’88-95 songs, making a more consistent listen.
*Stick with the ’88-95 motif and cut it down to a lean three disc set. All killer, no filler.
By leaving the fat untrimmed, Still In A Daydream drags on and on as it moves chronologically through five discs. Worse, it presents the genre it’s meant to champion in an unflattering light.