No Joy Wait to Pleasure(Mexican Summer Records) Buy it from Insound
I’m really enthralled by this 90s revival we seem to be going through. Maybe it’s what we grow up on that we resonate with the most, so I’m picking out individual cases and calling it a trend. I admit to that bias. But after years of shoegaze dead space, it's hard to miss a newer entrant. I blame my own self-imposed (and recently lifted, as evidenced by the onslaught of new reviews I've taken on!) ban on seeking out new music for missing out on No Joy when they first debuted three years ago. And what a fool I was, because the pain of studying for the bar exam would have been eased so well by this comforting, constant lull. Oh, shoegaze, my old friend. Hold me in your stereophonic embrace. You are the awkward, teenaged Greek chorus that follows me everywhere I go, pointing and laughing when I spill coffee all over myself. Sing to me, oh muse -- sing to me, oh My Bloody Valentine!
Feel my schmaltzy, maudlin memories, reader. Because No Joy washes them over me, and maybe you, too, if you've come of age. The last time I felt this overwhelming feeling of drowning in sound was from a seemingly space-filler instrumental on Electrelane's No Shouts, No Calls, nearly seven years ago. The song is called Tram 21, and the first time I heard it, I felt absolutely transported into some dreamy new atmosphere. When I closed my eyes, I floated away like something straight out of a movie trope acid flashback. It was really a headphones moment. But hearing it now, juxtaposed against songs like Hare Tarot Lies or Lunar Phobia (the real standouts of Wait to Pleasure), it seems almost empty. That's because No Joy has picked up where My Bloody Valentine left us all breathless and without closure after Loveless. It's so pure in its homage that it probably delves straight into rip-off territory.
Here's why I don't care. No Joy is exciting and enveloping in a way that I haven't experienced in a long time. There's a reason I boycotted new music for so long, and it wasn't just the poor life choices that led me down the "no time for hobbies" path. It's because I wasn't finding the hunger and excitement in new music like I used to. The world had run out of Arcade Fires. Is it a coincidence that this was prime quarter-life crisis timing for me? Of course not. I can't claim that new music has all been baloney from 2007 - 2012. That's just plain wrong. I've had my blinders on, pure and simple. The truth is that No Joy is unadulterated, all-surrounding sound. It is joy. The joy of musical discovery. It's my face when I first heard the soundtrack to Velvet Goldmine. It's the musical representation of what it feels like to be let in on the secret of a new musical genre.*
No Joy isn't truly pilfering from predecessors, anyway. They aren't nearly as frenetic as My Bloody Valentine. The vibe is more lilting, more dreamlike. It's simply true to genre: fullness of sound, reverby vocals, spacey guitars, constant heartbeat rhythm. Not a second is given away to silence. Everything blends together, almost indistinguishable between voices and instruments.
I have to bring myself down to reality, but it has to happen. I've imputed so much of my own feeling onto this record, and the fact is that ultimately, it suffers from its own pure adherence to shoegaze. A few spins and I'm lost, unsure of where one song ends and another begins. Stuck in a dream of its own creation, No Joy has nothing truly unique to bring it out of its haze. A very strong opening track (likely held up by the most easily identifiable percussion on the album) followed by an amazing display of Cherub Rock-esque (and I guess Siamese Dream in general) guitars, quickly lose steam to a much more intangible soundscape. Apart from the few exceptions I've already mentioned, that overwhelming feeling of openness washes away as soon as the music stops. No melodies, riffs or hooks remain in the brain, and I worry that lack of staying power will be No Joy's downfall.
I've knocked off a point to account for the druglike stupor that Wait to Pleasure produced in me, and I think that's fair.
*Speaking of nostalgia and the 90s and great music from a completely tangential perspective, do yourself a favor and check out My Mad Fat Diary. Yes, it's a TV show, but it so fully illustrates the feeling I'm grasping at straws to explain here. Somebody made a fairly good attempt at collecting the music from the show into a Spotify playlist, if you want to check it out.24 April, 2013 - 04:29 — Gabbie Nirenburg