Despite only spending a small amount of time in a recording studio during his lifetime, Syd Barrett became a cult hero. His whimsical songs about bikes, scarecrows, transvestitism and gnomes became part of English psychedelia’s core; his distinctive musical vision set (The) Pink Floyd on the road to stardom. So much was the love for the Floyd’s 1967 debut ‘Piper At The Gates of Dawn’ and associated singles, that Barrett’s two proper solo albums ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Barrett’ (released in January and November 1970, respectively) also found an audience, despite being very difficult listens.
Covers albums can be a lazy stop gap, a contractual obligation filler or – worst of all – a pointless exercise in rehashing tunes with no imagination. When done well, they can be fantastic and make you hear things in a way you never imagined. In the hands of Los Angeles noise rock/shoegaze band Medicine – famous to UK audiences for their contribution to the soundtrack for ‘The Crow’ – 2019’s ‘Scarred For Life’ provides an opportunity to dive into the past and re-imagine various cult tracks, bringing a few of their choices to a whole new audience. Although you might expect a band like Medicine to take the easier route and fuzz up a few old gothic favourites, on this eleven track release, they give their fans lots of surprises. Taking various songs from the 60s and 70s (in addition to a couple of other detours) this is a record that, in their own words, “relieves the glory of the K-Tel architechts”. That doesn’t mean the band are about to cover the likes of ‘Yellow River’, ‘Jeans On’ and a well known Suzi Quatro hit, though. This is Medicine, after all…and their voyage through decades past often favours deeper cuts.
During the first quarter of 2019, Cathedral Bells released an enjoyable debut EP, celebrating various retro dreampop and shoegaze moods. Although taking influence from the 80s, its best songs showed how their chosen genre could still sound relevant and vibrant in the present.
The band has a new full length album due for release on Good Eye Records early next year, but in the meantime, you can listen to a new single ‘Heavy Rain’.
Copenhagen’s Why Sun bill themselves as a “sleepy noise trio”. To most people, especially those old enough to be absorbed in alternative sounds circa 1986, this translates as “heavy gothic shoegaze with dream pop guitar”. There isn’t anything new in the noises Why Sun create – most of their influences come over like the proverbial sledgehammer – but what they lack in originality, they make up for with absolute conviction.