One of the things about being a free-lance, anything-goes (genre-wise) writer who is happy to put pen to paper (well, finger to keyboard) on behalf of any music offered up, is that you find yourself working with sounds and styles which are, let’s say, not always the place that you might choose to be. I’m not knocking it; there are worse ways of making a living but rarely does something land in the review pile that sounds like it should be in your record collection already. This, however, is one of those times rare times.
I used to be down the front at Ride gigs. I still hold MBV’s Loveless to be the shoegazing album benchmark to beat. I still play early Lush records. Slowdive was based just down the road from where I live. They could easily have made that list…had With Glee only been around 30 years earlier and approximately 4132 miles closer. I suspect, given enough time, they still can.
Pale Afternoon is a short, sharp and shockingly good quartet of songs. Songs built on the staples of the classic shoegaze sound – distorted guitars, cavernous walls of sound, ethereal interludes, low in the mix, half-heard vocals and feedback-drenched riffs. And although With Glee are a relatively new band, having formed only a couple of years ago, they tick all the boxes for an old indie kid like me. But that isn’t surprising as the genre has been gathering new momentum for a second chapter for many years now, so their timing is impeccable.
The titular opening salvo pushes through much of what I have described above and finds itself in harder and heavier territory, and thoughts of bands such as Dinosaur Jr spring to mind, or, if you want more contemporary references, look to the likes of other site favourites such as A Shoreline Dream or Tombstones in There Eyes.
Worms Haven, which follows, suggests the inclusion of grunge elements, ironic since it was that ((and Britpop) the bastards!) which put paid to the shoegaze movement the first time around. Still, when tempered with their more dreamlike approach, such heavy urges make for a wonderfully balanced and harmonious mixing of light and shade, delicate grace and heavy groove.
And talking of dreamlike, Peace Is Just A Fairytale wanders some gorgeously ethereal pathways; the fleeting and the floating, the drifting and the droning all swirling around to form a surprisingly cohesive sound. Dullsville is the closest that the band comes to crafting accessible and robust structures, and they drape with their signature sound to deliver a song that pushes them in a slightly more mainstream direction but still leaves them a long way on the right side of the underground/commercial divide.
If you love music that reminds you of the past whilst simultaneously suggesting a bright new future for discerning and adventurous music, buy Pale Afternoon…now. Actually, if you fit that description, you probably already have it. Good on you!