New shoegaze band Virgins debut with a fuzzy dream
When Nirvana started attracting less progressive followers to their cause, Kurt Cobain famously wrote “At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us — leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.”
I mention this because the musical movement they (reluctantly) spearheaded, grunge, largely supplanted its immediate predecessor in the affections of 90s indie scenesters, Shoegaze. It was used as a perjorative term by the thickheaded musical press of the time who preferred the laddish behaviour of Britpop and boorish US rock behemoths. As The Cribs nicely put it in We Were Aborted "mass virility, has made me forget empathy"
Maybe it was just ahead of its time with its emphasis on lack of ego; an anti-rock agenda; much more equal representation between men and women; and a non-aggressive and non-confrontational stance in contrast to the generally ear bursting volume of their live music which did their talking for them.
Shoegaze never went away (certainly not for me) and on Blowtorch we have our own Japanese 'trip-gaze' heroes concrete twin. Imagine our delight when Michael Smyth from Paper Tigers started a side project Virgins to appease and feed his love of the genre.
Their debut single Vows was released on Friday August 20.
Joining Michael in Virgins is the heavenly voice of Brook-Valentine Lorimer. Already acquainted from the heady, hedonistic days of youth, they recently bumped into each again whereupon Michael asked Brook to join on vocals and they now form the core of the band. The former is responsible for the instrumentation, song writing, the lyrics and melodies and the latter for the gorgeous, soaring, ethereal vocals. Favourable comparisons to Liz Fraser are not unwarranted.
Vows is produced by Jonny Woods from Wynona Bleach who also adds bass. It pulses beautifully with Michael's drumming to add propulsion to a track which might otherwise be a little ambient. This momentum contrasts with Lorimer's seemingly slower, haunting vocals to produce a serotonin rush of emotion.
Although the overall feeling is one of a track all washed over in layers of fuzz and reverb, closer listening reveals subtle shifts with verses delineated in clean guitar strums before an almost funky fill leads us swooning into the chorus.
The sweet words of "Swaying, feeling surreal for days/Dissension, but not from the mouths of babes" coalesce with the now fuzzed up guitars. 'Swaying' coincides perfectly with the initial gauzy, swoop of the vibratro on the opening chorus chord. And still that insistent bass driving it all forward. There's a great deal of thought and effort gone into this beauty.
As Smyth explains, lyrically its concerns are "...against being coerced into actions simply to appease the needs and wants of others, when these couldn't be any further from your own desires." And with Lorimer's vocals "a whispered reminder of a long forgotten ghost laden with regret, melancholia and a desire to return to a more innocent time."
Although all involved have been making music for many years, it truly is an extraordinary debut. We welcome Virgins and Vows, a brilliant addition to this world of whispered secrets and weightless noise.
Listen to Virgins on Spotify