photo & text by nacrowe
throughout her recent memoir FINGERS CROSSED: HOW MUSIC SAVED ME FROM SUCCESS (NINE EIGHT PUBLISHING, 2022), LUSH front-woman and co-songwriter MIKI BERENYI presents a HARROWING personal narrative that frames her career as a CELEBRATED SHOEGAZE icon as one of survival. by definition, the BRITISH SHOEGAZE movement was dreamed up by a cadre of SUPPORTIVE, like-minded musicians that created HAZY, INTROSPECTIVE aural landscapes that seemingly washed over their audience into a mantra-like state of ecstasy. at least that is how i feel when revisiting noteworthy bands from period like SLOWDIVE, CATHERINE WHEEL and MY BLOODY VALENTINE. with LUSH and BERENYI in particular i was just startled by the deep well of TRAUMA, ANXIETY and SUFFERING that rooted her identity and was exorcised through their music. i had always considered their music as DELICATE, EPHEMERAL and optimistically BOUYANT.
without diving deep into the details, BERENYI had a DIFFICULT childhood mired by the psychological and physical traumas of DIVORCE, growing up BIRACIAL (HUNGARIAN/JAPANESE) to non-native parents in ENGLAND and repeated SEXUAL ABUSE at the hand of her grandmother. that whole section of the book is amongst the most BRUTAL and TRAGIC i have come across in any memoir by a musician. it reminded me of a book i read over a decade ago called NIGHT FALLS FAST: UNDERSTANDING SUICIDE (VINTAGE, 2000) by KAY REDFIELD JAMISON of JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY which at the heart of it was about trauma. long story short, for those that experience childhood sexual trauma longterm effects include asexuality as well as chronic PROMISCUITY. both are about the need for physical CONTROL and COMFORT. this phenomena was explored pretty explicitly in the GREGG ARAKI's film MYSTERIOUS SKIN (DESPERATE PICTURES, 2004). so it came as no surprise that BERENYI throughout he years of fame was caught in that cycle. she had been effectively abandoned by her parents who parked her in private schools while they pursued their careers elsewhere.
what i found so intriguing about FINGERS CROSSED was her ability given such trauma to endure a career as a public entertainer with all the slings and arrows that come with it. especially as a female musician during a musical era (BRITPOP) in ENGLAND that lionized LAD CULTURE and MISOGYNY as a lazy past time akin to football. i dont know how navigating those waters and the messages by sent about her status werent internalized and calcified into a negative self image. i just get the sense that BERENYI has an intestinal fortitude beyond us normal mortal beings. especially as she got older with the gender DOUBLE-STANDARDS at play, the whole charade feels downright MASOCHISTIC in nature.
i did appreciate her description of the INTERNAL dynamics between her bandmates, especially the CONTENTIOUS creative interplay with gifted songwriter EMMA ANDERSON, and the relationship of the band with the greater SHOEGAZE and 4AD RECORDS scene, but to me the central gambit of this memoir was BERENYI's struggle to secure LOVE, AFFECTION, CONNECTION and a sense of FAMILY, however IMPERFECT. LUSH obviously seemed to be one attempt at such. its nice to know that she found such in her CHILDREN and a STABLE relationship with a SUPPORTIVE partner. fingers crossed.
this was one of the better written memoirs ive come across in recent years and wholeheartedly recommend it even if you are not interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, BRITPOP or ALTERNATIVE ROCK. its a startlingly COMPELLING story about SURVIVAL in the face of UNSPEAKABLE TRAUMA.
parodies by nacrowe
ive been on a huge SHOEGAZE kick as of late. been reading the new memoir by LUSH front-woman MIKI BERENYI (review to come shortly) which got me down the rabbit-hole reinvestigating bands like RIDE, SWIRLIES, PALE SAINTS and CHAPTERHOUSE in addition to newer bands like ASOBI SEKSU, NO JOY, THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART and DIIV. ive pretty much been listening nonstop since my senior year of high school to SLOWDIVE, THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, THE CATHERINE WHEEL and LUSH. that year was when i largely jumped into the EXPERIMENTAL waters of 80s POST PUNK and early 90s SHOEGAZE and largely havent looked back since.
there is something innately SEDUCTIVE about being washed over and smothered in repeating seasick waves of delayed distorted reverb. its a romantically HYPNOTIC guitar tone that is very much both ETHEREAL and MANTRA-LIKE as it envelopes and passes over your senses. ive always found the sound to be incredible dream-like and even NOSTALGIC as it makes you consider past EMOTIONAL states both good and bad that the sound has evoked. when employed poorly it sounds like nonsensical unstructured mush, but when conceived and composed intelligently in a great song it is something to be marveled at. it feels almost ALCHEMICAL in nature.
examples of such include "WHEN THE SUN HITS" by SLOWDIVE, "WHEN YOU SLEEP" by MY BLOODY VALENTINE, "SWEETNESS AND LIGHT" by LUSH and even the more recent by "HARE TAROT LIES" by NO JOY. definitely encourage anyone interested to seek out those specific tracks. lightning in a bottle in my opinion.
embedded below is a DEER GOD RADIO episode on nonprofit internet radio station MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to SHOEGAZE bands past and present. enjoy!
art by nacrowe
watch HERE for our most recent episode of DEER GOD RADIO where the playlist is all the SHOEGAZE movement and all it's ringing, droned-out, reverb-heavy, fuzzed-to-all-hell glory.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.