Newest musical wave from Britain: 'wooze'

May 21, 1992|By Gary Graff | Gary Graff,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

It's music that doesn't bop or drive or grind or charge.

Instead, it washes across your ears in sonic sheets, blending guitars, drums and vocals into dense layers that disregard the standard stereophonic sensibilities of balance, clarity and separation.

It's a sound of contradictions -- thick but ethereal, dissonant but melodious, complex but seemingly simple, mostly because it's difficult to pick individual parts out of the deliberately murky mixes.

The touchstones are familiar: Any fan of late-'60s psychedelia will hear echoes of the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground. But when they're mixed with new wave sensibilities, including such modern influences as the Cocteau Twins and the Jesus & Mary Chain, it becomes a new sound.

This is the latest rock 'n' roll movement to come out of Britain. The movement features a coalition of bands -- including Blur, Ride, My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive -- operating in the same general but title-less milieu. Some use the evocative term "wooze." Others call it dream pop. Or new psychedelic.

Whatever the moniker, it's a wave that, after almost 10 years of making a splash in Britain, has picked up considerable momentum in North America. That's because of major label contracts, including half a dozen releases so far this year, and a growing proliferation of so-called alternative rock radio stations that have embraced these groups.

"You're really seeing a kind of pop audience acceptance," says Greg St. James, a Michigan-based radio consultant who specializes in modern rock stations. "I would say that essentially what they've done is reinvent pop. As opposed to the standard pop [song] that everyone has rewritten and recorded and done for the last hundred years, they've come up with a hooky, almost syrupy kind of music that has some real soul to it."

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