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Belfast dreamgazers Virgins release debut album

The debut Virgins album nothing hurt and everything was beautiful is out now and adds a dream pop sheen to their shoegaze sound.


Album: nothing hurt and everything was beautiful

Band: Virgins

Released: April 11 2024

After two teasing singles, slowly, long and softer, the eagerly anticipated debut album from Belfast's Virgins is out now. Showcasing a shoegaze-correct, glossily gorgeous pink cover with lower case lettering, plus a title (inverting a Kurt Vonnegut phrase from Slaughterhouse Five) which hints at my bloody valentine songs such as When You Wake (You're Still In A Dream), you know you are going to be wrapped in the warm fuzz of the shoegaze genre. Or are you?

The short answer is a resounding yes. The more roundabout response would be that Virgins have taken the genre specific sound from debut EP Transmit A Little Heaven and had the songwriting chops and confidence to expand on it with a pop friendly production and a fulsome embrace of melody.

Cover artwork for nothing hurt and everything was beautiful by Virgins

Having said that, LP opener softer is a nailed on gaze classic reminiscent of closing track soon on my bloody valentine's loveless. As we noted in our review of its single release "... a wall of effected of guitar sounds is fully present on softer as are Rebecca Dow's skyscraping vocals. What propels this track though is Brendy McCann's pummelling bass and the shuffle dance beat of James Foy's drums, sat in each other's pockets like the Mani and Reni of Belfast."

Second track slowly, long was the first single released from the album and gave a strong steer on the more pop oriented direction of the album. Shoegaze diehards don't despair! Think Ride (the band not her track) with Lana del Rey on vocals and melodies sculpted by divine deities, rather than daytime radio.

And so on to the first of the unheard tracks Close (as in near) and it's as single worthy as the preceding brace - indeed it's even single length coming in at under four minutes. One thing about Virgins - you get your money's worth. As Michael Smyth noted in our album review podcast, initially Rebecca's vocals were more buried in the mix until she not unreasonably pointed out that she is the singer, has a fantastic voice, wrote some of the lyrics and thus wants to be heard. Close makes a compelling justification.

Changing pace, side A closer Pale Fire take us somewhere different - slow, intense, trance inducing. And shimmeringly beautiful. Think When The Sun Hits from Slowdive's Souvlaki or early Lush single Sweetness and Light. Maybe not easy to schedule in a live set full of faster paced songs but to bring the first quartet to a close, it's perfect.

It also nicely sets up side two and its first track Adore. The minimalist verses are simply divine with two four note descending runs on the guitar providing the hook and leading into another skyscraping chorus. The pacing is key here - it would be tempting to play it faster but it's the restraint which gives the song its yearning feeling - as if it is asking the listener to give something. Love of course.

Disappearer is frankly incredible - for a start listen to the drums. It shimmers with an ethereal intensity yet is also danceable and even incorporates a drop mid way presaged by a quiet interlude, interrupted and encouraged on by a four on the floor kick drum which Michael notes reminds him of Born Slippy. It was also written in ten minutes as he was heading out for the night.

If you're not a fan of earworms I recommend giving Sunspots a miss - you will not be able to get the "I hear voices on the radio" refrain out of your head. It has a more American radio friendly sound to it (Smashing Pumpkins maybe) but none the worse for that. Seven tracks in and not a dud in sight - should we be nervous about album closer Tend?

For a band which furnish so much care and attention on their work and are so damn good, don't entertain such thoughts for one moment. The longest track on the album provides a suitably elegiac finish - parting is such sweet sad sorrow. The song dips, teases and turns, holding back for nearly three minutes whereupon it suddenly explodes into the emotional payoff you know has been coming. And like I Am The Resurrection you don't have to wait long for it to come again. The spoken word section over the staccato sections is a treat worth waiting for, as is the down tuned bass rattling the woofers and reminding us how deftly Virgins mesh the heavy and the weightless, the dark and the lightness.

Virgins on this album were Michael Smyth, Rebecca Dow, David Sloan, James Foy and Brendy McCann. It was recorded at 1980 studios with producer/mixer Jonny Woods and mastered by Jon Moorehead at Moosetronix Mastering.


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