I was practically rabid with anticipation for this boxset, having been a staunch shoegaze fan for most of the 2000s. The prospect of five-discs of songs from the genre’s heyday, 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. 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. A decade ago Rhino put out an excellent punk rock boxset without any Sex Pistols songs, so it can be done. Besides, it’s a pretty safe bet that anyone shelling out $40-50 for this already has the important My Bloody Valentine albums, anyway.
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 really belong here. 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. Include them, and you might as well include other non-shoegazers like Primal Scream, Dinosaur Jr, or The Verve.
Now, here’s the real problem: With 87 songs from 87 bands, listener end up being taken too deep into what’s essentially a sub-genre and are forced to spend a ridiculous amount of time sifting through weak material from bands like Curve or Swirl to find an occasional lesser-known gold nugget (Loop, Kitchens Of Distinction, Whipping Boy, and Seefeel all impressed).
Here’s how I would have approached this box-set
*Include multiple tracks from the better bands. Would you prefer to hear a second song from 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. By the end, the genre it’s meant to champion actually comes off looking bad.