Remember when there was a thin line between grunge bands and shoegazers? In the late ’80s, the term came about when a subgenre of alternative rock took center stage and didn’t budge. Literally. In some ways, the art of simple stage movements or lack thereof was a slight ode to ’60s psych rockers like Jim Morrison who turned his back on the audience and immersed himself totally, well, within himself. It was shy. And fragile. Post-hardcore. Shoegaze rock was pushed under a rug at the peak of the grunge era. However short-lived it was, it’s totally making a comeback.
Ringo Deathstarr is Elliott Frazier, Daniel Doborn, and Alex Gehring, a Texan trio that found its spot at SXSW in March. Their debut album Colour Trip landed on February 21, 2011. The first single they released was “So High.” It was a cassette-only single. The lyrics are bitter but sweet: “Bubblegum and ecstasy/ Make me feel the power/ If you want to run with me/ I will show you how.” The song “Kaleidoscope” asks, “Have you seen her?/ She’s a kaleidoscope/ She can show you colors that no one knows.” Maybe that’s their aesthetic: multiple layers of feathery prettiness mingled in with infinite trains of loss. It calls to mind indie rock lyrics like Sonic Youth, or the sound of their most compared predecessors, My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and The Mary Chain.
The Guardian interviewed the band in January and Frazier was quoted saying, “We are about cool vibes, big sound, Marshall stacks, secret melodies and excessive volume.” It’s true. Hidden somewhere in the depths of their loudness, is a pop song that emotes heartbreak, in the way bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s seemed to knock you around with their heavy lightness, power guitars, and low voices. When you listen to “Tambourine Girl”, you might get the sensation that it’s 1992 and you’re driving in your beater on the way to a show. In that way, it’s a nostalgic feel-good.
Ringo Deathstarr will move you under a spectrum of different sounds, ‘gazers of a new generation that many will be quick to pigeon-hole as ‘hipster’ and nothing new. It isn’t new, it’s a fresh spin on something vintage classic. It’s an homage to subgenres that didn’t get their kicks quite as long as they should have. Deathstarr is kind of reinventing a little piece of music that is both introspective and detached.