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The British shoegaze movement wouldn’t have existed without Alan McGee’s aesthetic in the years before the ‘90s explosion.
Before bands including My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, Swervedriver and dozens of other so-called “shoegaze” bands built walls of distortion in the 1990s via gloriously daisy-chained effects pedals and boxes, the British label Creation Records was laying the groundwork through a run of semi-distorted post-punk and jangle-rock records.
Founded by Alan McGee, whose band Biff Bang Pow! released one of the first Creation records, the label’s early singles drew from the post-punk scene that birthed bands like the Smiths, the Woodentops and Prefab Sprout. Injecting emo-individualism and uniquely defiant voices into British pop music structures, Creation bands including the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Pastels, Felt and others laid the foundation for the 1990s British guitar rock explosion — including Creation releases by My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Primal Scream and Oasis.
Below, some game-changing records.
Felt – Primitive Painters (1985)
This early Felt track actually came out on kindred U.K. label Cherry Red, and its success helped prompt Creation to add them to the roster a year later. Produced by Cocteau Twins guitarist Robin Guthrie, the recording features backing vocals by his Cocteau bandmate Elizabeth Frazer.
Razorcuts – Brighter Now (1988)
One of the highlights of the killer 1988 Creation compilation “Doing It for the Kids,” the Razorcuts’ “Brighter Now” is an overlooked gem that anticipates the harmonic density that Kevin Shields would go on to amplify a few years later.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Upside Down (1984)
A revolution on wax, “Upside Down” propelled both the Jesus and Mary Chain and Creation to another level. Dense with feedback, echo and harmonic chaos, “Upside Down” remains as essential now as when it was released.
Jazz Butcher – Swell (1988)
Though use of saxophone ended up being banned by the shoegaze community (not really, but basically), the excellent Creation band the Jazz Butcher tapped the instrument to accompany a synthetic beat for “Swell.” A band whose work has been unfortunately overlooked, the band is ripe for rediscovery. Sadly, the band’s founder and leader, Pat Fish, passed away last week, but his records will endure.
Biff Bang Pow! – She Never Understood (1987)
After Creation founder McGee split from his previous band, the Laughing Apple, in the early ‘80s, he formed the proto-Britpop band Biff Bang Pow! Responsible for some of the earliest Creation successes, the band helped establish the label in England.
Pastels – I’m Alright with You (1985)
The Pastels are from Glasgow, and recently celebrated 40 years as a band — by releasing a split-single with Sonic Youth. An oft-overlooked precursor to the shoegaze sound, by the time My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive had cranked their amps, the Pastels were making more angular, and less outwardly aggressive, music.
The Laughing Apple – Goodbye to You (1980’s)
Before McGee founded Biff Bang Pow! and Creation, he was a member of a short-lived post-punk trio called the Laughing Apple. Though not all of their stuff is as wild as the track below, “Goodbye to You” is a truly memorable experimental recording from the early ‘80s. It wasn’t released at the time; rather, it popped up on a posthumous collection.