I was practically rabid with anticipation for this boxset, having been a shoegaze fan for most of the 2000s. The prospect of five-discs, heavy on deep cuts, was tantalizing. Would it turn me on to a bunch of bands 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 tracking down music from all the great bands the boxset introduced me to?
Well, no. Still In A Dream is a mess, with negatives far outweighing the positives. First, let’s deal with the elephant in the room: they couldn’t get permission to use any My Bloody Valentine songs. While it’s strange to have a shoegaze box-set without the band most synonymous with the genre (especially when its title comes from a My Bloody Valentine song) I’m actually OK with this. It reminds me of 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 this already has the important My Bloody Valentine albums.
Next up are the obligatory complaints over who did and didn’t make the tracklisting. A few bands probably should have made the cut, but didn’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 long list of bands who got the nod but don’t belong here. The Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, Luna, Spectrum and Sonic Boom 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: With 87 songs from 87 bands, the compilers dug 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).
Here’s how it could have been better:
*Include multiple tracks from the better bands. Would you prefer to hear a second song from a brilliant band like Ride or “Godlike” from the rightfully forgotten band The Dylans (who weren’t shoegaze anyway)?
*Open up the set beyond 1995, so you can 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-discs. All killer, no filler.
By leaving the fat untrimmed, Still In A Daydream grows more difficult to enjoy as it goes on, and the genre it’s meant to champion comes off looking bad.