In Flannery O'Connor's short story "The Lame Shall Enter First," shoes are a metaphor for selfishness. The doomed character of Norton is the type of kid who, when given a new pair of kicks, "walked around for days with his eyes on his feet." Such has been the sin of the majority of bands that fall under the category of shoegazer: too much of a stress on erecting shields of atmosphere, too little on actually sharing anything with those who choose to listen.
Drop the Fear (who will perform on Friday, June 18, at the Climax Lounge) isn't selfish. Then again, it isn't a shoegazer act, either. There is certainly some Slowdive in its lineage, but this three-song debut is just as informed by astronomy and forensics as it is by podiatry. Hearts are laid bare and stars are gawked at; when feet are at last focused on, it's more out of a genuine sense of bashfulness than any coy attempt at obscurity. Not that Listen skimps on mystique: The dark electronic textures of "When Memory Fails" could belong to a cyborg Portishead, and the sparse sibilance of "Long Way From Home" is as sensual as anything Denali was able to conjure before imploding earlier this year. But most important, Drop the Fear already has a firm grasp on balancing isolation and empathy, of occupying space without oppressing it. Many groups over the last fifteen years have tried to either widen or deepen the footing of the shoegazer scene; with Listen, it might be time for the genre to tie its laces, look ahead and take a bold step forward.