Published Nov 28, 2014Though the word "shoegaze" is never actually muttered out loud in Eric Green's Beautiful Noise, this long-gestating documentary is essentially "the shoegaze doc." In development for a decade, Green was finally able to complete and release the film after raising enough money to fund the film through Kickstarter. Needless to say, this is a film fans of the late '80s/early '90s shoegaze movement have been waiting a while for. And although it has its flaws, Beautiful Noise doesn't disappoint.
Let's get these flaws out of the way first. As a documentary itself, Beautiful Noise follows a rather weak narrative structure. The first half introduces all of the key bands that influenced and then helped the scene celebrate itself. Beginning with the scene's pioneers Cocteau Twins and the Jesus and Mary Chain, and ending with Lush, Curve and Medicine, it rolls through the artists in a chronological order, interviewing each one about the period. In the second half, it transitions into segments that focus on the era's characteristics. All of it is fascinating to see and hear, but as a film, the flow feels a little too fragmented, like it would've worked better as a printed oral history. (Also, the fraction dedicated to Alan McGee feels a little unnecessary — mostly because it's really just him and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields trading insults.)
But Green does achieve his primary goal: to show why this music has had such a captivating influence over its listeners (which includes both Trent Reznor and Robert Smith, who were both interviewed for the film). In the "Experimentation" segment, he explores the intention of the artists and how they were pushing boundaries to make a new type of music that wasn't following a tradition or formula. Under "Image" and "Press," he reveals how the scene was driven by the music itself and had little interest in how the bands were perceived or received by the press. And one very interesting and often understated point that Green underlines is how gender was not an issue; there were as many women as there were men involved, with bands like Lush, Curve, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive all demonstrating equality.
Shoegaze's "downfall" began with the demise of Ride, which the members all discuss. Slowdive followed shortly after, along with Lush, who ended things on a rather miserable note: touring with Goo Goo Dolls and Gin Blossoms. That period in music simply hit a wall, and succumbed to the next big thing: Britpop. Of course, the eventual resurgence of this music, which no doubt inspired the film, establishes just how ahead of their time artists like Cocteau Twins and the Jesus and Mary Chain were.
It's not perfect, but Beautiful Noise serves its purpose in drawing attention to a genre of music that may not have ruled the world itself, but influenced many artists who eventually did.