What we’re into: shitgaze

Have you ever tried to produce the aural equivalent of squinting? When a song sounds so murky that you try to concentrate your ear canals and focus in on the vocals, which have been buried at the bottom of the mix? Apparently, there is a whole genre based on making music that evokes this type of response. Shitgaze may not be the term you’ll see in Rolling Stone, but it is a good indication of what you should expect from bands of this overlooked genre.
The label, of course, is a play off of shoegaze, the term used to describe any song that bears a passing resemblance to anything on My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Shitgaze bands, however, opt less for layered guitars and a cornucopia of effects pedals than for, well, horrible mastering. If you want “space,” or “subtlety” in your music, listen to a Talk Talk album. If you want something that will most certainly make you cringe more often than nod to the beat, shitgaze is the genre for you.
Ok, so, down to brass tacks: the bands. Though the term shitgaze was originally coined in reference to Psychedelic Horseshit, I would advise against starting with this band. Like plenty of other acts labeled as shitgaze, Psychedelic Horseshit is a one-trick pony (no pun intended). Not that lo-fi music is all that new of a concept (I wouldn’t even qualify Pavement as obscure anymore), but making purposely horrible music is an interesting concept as long as you don’t just stick to the basics. The really interesting shitgaze bands are the ones who use this formula of shittiness to transform other genres and come up with something wholly unique and actually listenable.
Here are what I consider the “big five” of shitgaze—that is, the ones you should be paying attention to: (…and honestly, do Times New Viking, No Age, or Wavves need any more press?):
Blank Dogs: a Joy Division imitation that’s been dragged through the mud a little bit
The Intelligence: rhythm-heavy, shout-y, catchy punk
Vivian Girls: girl group vocals meet the respectable twee of Black Tambourine, drenched in too much fuzz, of course
Thee Oh Sees: basically, you should check out any band John Dwyer has ever participated in (Coachwhips and The Hospitals in particular), but Thee Oh Sees remains one of the most mature shitgaze bands, channeling acts like Moby Grape and The Move (Sidenote: In my opinion, The Move’s self-titled album from 1968 is the perfect prototype for the entire shitgaze genre).
Strange Boys: lo-fi twang-rock (“weird country music” for those of you who detest hyphens)
For beginners, I would recommend listening to the “The World’s Lousy With Ideas” series of compilations put out by Almost Ready records.
Or, just listen to On Two Sides by Blank Dogs and tell me you haven’t found a new favorite genre.

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