Formed in Los Angeles in 1990, Medicine was one of just a few American equivalents to the shoegazers on the other side of the pond and was one of an even smaller few US bands to ever release a record on the seminal Creation label. But while the band was also signed to Rick Rubin’s American imprint and even appeared in goth flick The Crow, their profile never reached critical mass in the States or abroad. As such, they have been largely overlooked in the shoegaze pantheon.
Captured Tracks apparently hasn’t forgotten about the band. They recently reissued Medicine’s first two albums, 1992’s Shot Forth Self Living and 1993’s The Buried Life, adding on a second disc of outtakes and rarities to each. (Both albums could also be purchased together as part of a boxset which also includes the comp Sounds of Medicine and the Always Starting to Stop live cassette.) The releases are part of the label’s Shoegaze Archives, an ongoing concern to unearth such neglected records.
Listening to Shot Forth Self Living and The Buried Life, it’s easy to hear why neither made as great an impression as more highly regarded albums fitting the classification. Both lack consistency, with their best tracks—and there are some truly great ones—obfuscated by the mediocrity that surrounds them. Medicine’s music also suffered for coming off a bit fabricated at times, the inherent mechanization lending an air of artificiality rather than the distanced cool of their peers.
But all this isn’t to say that these records aren’t worthy of your time. Shot Forth Self Living begins with the brilliant slow churn of “One More,” nine minutes of sculpted cacophony set to a metronomic beat. And songs like “Aruca” and “Defective” mine an aesthetic not unlike My Bloody Valentine’s on Loveless, released the year prior. But then there are cuts like “Sweet Explosion,” which, with Beth Thompson’s saccharine vocals and the treble set to an ear-cracking level, is too much to bear. Additionally, the songs tacked onto the end of the album proper, which include a version of “Time Baby,” the cut that appeared on The Crow soundtrack, do little to augment the record. In fact, far more interesting are tracks like “Gum,” a song from the bonus disc saturated in guitar overload.
Like its predecessor, The Buried Life begins strongly with “Babydoll,” a beautifully hazy mix of melody and cracking beats. But “Slut,” which follows should have been left on the cutting room floor, it’s calculated rhythm and guitar snippets juxtaposed with Thompson’s vocals in a manner that presaged Garbage. And the random bits and pieces that comprise “Emmeline” probably really didn’t need to be heard at all. Medicine is at its best when the band relaxes, as on “Never Click” and “I Hear,” and lets what comes naturally to them happen. That is the case with several of the demos that appear on the bonus disc, and they probably would have done well to include songs like “Something Goes Wrong” on The Buried Life originally. But hey, hindsight is 20-20, and between the four discs of these two sets, there is more than enough evidence of Medicine’s contributions to the shoegaze vernacular.