Monday, October 31, 2016
EP Review :: Is Bliss - Velvet Dreams
November 4 2016 (Club AC30)
Words: Richard O’Hagan
Ah, shoegaze, where have you been? It is funny to think that there’s now a whole generation of musicians out there who spent not only their formative years but their infancy listening to the likes of Lush, Ride and Slowdive. Presumably they were all able to have a family outing of three when those bands reformed last year. Shoegaze has already made me feel old once this year (when Miki Berenyi gave a shout out to her son’s schoolteacher during Lush’s show at the Roundhouse) but thinking that we might be about to experience a further revival fuelled by shoegazing’s babies is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time.
What we have here from Hampshire shoegazers Is Bliss is something even more than that, though. It is almost extreme shoegaze, as if you’d taken one of those bands, let Kevin Shields set up their guitars, and then thrown in a soupcon of Stone Roses as well. Dean Edwards’ bass is the driving force behind most of the songs here, as Jimmy Stuart’s murmured vocals, often with a curiously female sound to them, appear only occasionally from the maelstrom.
Unfortunately, though, where Is Bliss fall down is where so many of their 1990s predecessors did. There’s just too much texture and too little differentiation or indeed self-editing in their music. Lead single ‘Ocean Blue’ does have a vaguely sitar-ish guitar sound to it, but it is still six minutes of drifting. ‘Truth’ is a number undistinguished except by its brevity and a very sudden ending. In a similar vein, the vocals, when you can hear them, aren’t really saying anything much. ‘Realise’ is pretty much the phrase "Realise you’re not the only one" repeated over and over again, whilst closer ‘Lure’ – all eight and a half minutes of it! – contains little more than the words "You lure me out".
Over the past year or so, Is Bliss have had some big support slots and certainly you don’t get to work with a producer like Pat Collier (Swervedriver, The House of Love) if you haven’t got something about you. The problem here is that it is hard to see anyone sitting through an hour of their current repertoire, which means that whilst they clearly have talent, they aren’t going to get far with it unless their songwriting improves.