Ghostwood relive the days of Shoegaze

Beach Road Hotel – Sydney

It was 20 years ago this year that Nirvana’s Nevermind was released to mass acclaim. Grunge became the de-rigor sound of every discernible teenager and the alternative music scene was never the same again. Indie rock bands entered the charts and the homogenization of music began.

Shoe-gaze was another lesser known genre around during the late 1980s and early 1990s, shadowed by the lengthening popularity of grunge it was a much more introspective and non-confrontational sound, spawned out of the universities of England. Unlike grunge it failed to gain a foothold in the national consciousness and collapsed under the weight of self-indulgence. Most bands disbanded in the mid 90s or fell below the radar, but for a brief moment in the history of modern music there was a real excitement around this slightly esoteric, wholly inclusive and proudly adolescent sound. The term shoegaze was actually labeled because of the way the bands use to look down at their effects pedals while performing, this was not engaged showmanship but it was engaged listenership. Music was often played through swirling distortion and guitars built layer upon layer of sound to create an amorphous escapism.

Two decades later and the music scene is suffocated by overly produced and career contrived artists, pressured by record labels and tempted by the golden goose. Enter Ghostwood, jettisoned from a time before Pop Idol and Twitter. Not exactly. Formed in 2006 they have been traveling the circuit, offering redemption for anyone who cares to listen. In the slightly incongruous surroundings of the Beach Road Hotel, Bondi, the band launch through a set of uncompromising, shoe-gaze influenced and very loud alternative guitar music. It was unapologetically shambolic at times and brazenly louche but this is a band who are channeling the best of that forgotten scene.

‘Robot with clothes on’ vibrated and droned like early Slowdive while early single ‘Red Version’ had a spindly guitar motif reminiscent of Ride. Many songs tonight surged and spiraled with reverb, guitars twisted and buzzed, the sound at times smothered the small, under resourced venue, this is a band that like to set their dials to 11. Although much like their shoegaze brethren, there is melody amongst the mayhem. A pop sensibility hidden underneath the sinew of sound.

To portray Ghostwood as mere shoegaze imitators would do them an injustice. There are certainly more strings to their bow. Lead singer, Gabriel, sings with an angst akin to a grungy howl, not the barely audible vocals of a shoegaze band. Then there are the recent singles, ‘Cutlass’ and ‘Sunset Mirage’, played in quick succession tonight they hint at a more rounded, melodic sound, with the latter resembling Liverpool cosmics, The Coral, all psychedelic pop and galloping rhythm. Last song ‘Rest My Soul’ finishes with a hazy groove, a slow builder, it swaggers like a youthful Oasis.

Though clearly not the vanguards of the current resurgence for all things reverb, Glasvegas, Deerhunter and The Horrors to name but a few; Ghostwood furrow a distinctive path nonetheless, one that echoes back to the halcyon days of indie/shoegaze without the distraction of the corporate chart.  This is an unrefined, unrestrained band inviting the listener, like them, to get lost in the sound.


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