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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Drop Nineteens return with their first album in thirty years, ‘Hard Light’

Bostonian shoegaze trailblazers embark on an unexpected comeback
Hard Light album cover. Courtesy of Drop Nineteens’s Bandcamp.
Hard Light album cover. Courtesy of Drop Nineteens’s Bandcamp.

Drop Nineteens, the Boston based shoegaze band, has broken their thirty-year hiatus with the release of “Hard Light” on Nov. 3, 2023. Fans, critics and even Greg Ackell, the singer of Drop Nineteens never expected this reunion to happen. The compelling release of “Hard Light” accentuates the enduring influence of Drop Nineteens.

In 1990, Boston University students Greg Ackell, Chris Roof, Steve Zimmerman, Motohiro Yasue and Paula Kelley formed the quintet known as Drop Nineteens. Two years after the band’s origin, they released their critically acclaimed album “Delaware,” with their hit song “Winona” receiving significant airtime on MTV. The band’s popularity unexpectedly skyrocketed overseas, due to the popularity of shoegaze in the U.K., making them an American outlier in a British scene.

Drop Nineteens initially had a very brief yet memorable existence from 1990 to 1995. At their peak, bands like Radiohead and the Cranberries opened for them. Following their 1992 release of “Delaware,” the band took a turn for the worse, with four of the five founding band members eventually leaving the band. Their success was overshadowed by listeners’ increasing interest in grunge. Trending bands like their former labelmates, Smashing Pumpkins, outshined the Drop Nineteens at some points.

Greg Ackell stated that he and original bassist, Steve Zimmerman, had toyed with the idea of a Drop Nineteens return, yet never fully committed to this comeback. In late July 2023, Greg Ackell officially confirmed that Drop Nineteens were reuniting to create “Hard Light”.

Four of the five original members collaborated on this reunion release, along with Peter Koeplin, who replaced Chris Roof in 1993 during the band’s initial run. In an interview with Paste Magazine, Ackell admits that “Hard Light” does not share the same groundbreaking array of their shoegaze style. “We’re in a different place in our lives, but what I set out to do just reflects how dynamic this part of my life is,” Ackell said. “And in that way, I think it does share something with Delaware.”

“Hard Light” is best described as a more sophisticated tribute to the band’s youth. The album’s mellow approach contrasts with the harsh and protesting tone of their early projects. “Hard Light” offers mature abstractions, depicting the artists’ shifts from their youth to adulthood. It could be considered easy listening compared to their earlier tracks like “Reberrymemberer” and “My Aquarium (Second Time Around).”

The shining single from their new release, “Scapa Flow,” caters to returning fans with the track’s nostalgic and sentimental rhythms. The unexpectedly light flow of the song instills a transcendental feeling much like hearing their debut album, “Delaware,” for the first time.

“Rose With Smoke” cultivates an instrumental landscape of distant shoegaze-y guitar chords. The track echoes the band’s sentimental reflection of their return, with a mature revision of their eccentric past.

The seven-and-a-half minute track “T” concludes the album, with a beautifully mature array of deliberate dream pop tones and mellow drums. “T” offers boundless layers of warped guitar tones and hypnotic vocals, leaving the audience longing for another release.

Their universally praised 1992 release, “Delaware”, continues to be recognized as an inspiring and captivating album. Dmitri Giannopoulos, singer and guitarist for Boston-based band Horse Jumper of Love, expresses his respect for Drop Nineteens’ influence, explaining that “Finding out they were from Boston was huge for [him] as a native Bostonian. The further [he] dove, the more [he] learned there was a huge history of this particular music being made in Boston. It was really inspiring to [him] at the time right before we started Horse Jumper. [He] actually considered naming the band  ‘Winona.’”

Drop Nineteens have undoubtedly paved a path for endless shoegaze bands to explore the genre and build defining styles. The band has rebooted their own journey and released an album that continues to expand their legacy, clearing the way for future Drop Nineteens releases.

Drop Nineteens are playing at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA on April 19, 2024 for their reunion tour. The band is also featured on the bill for the massive Sick New World Festival in Las Vegas in April.

Crissy Saucier can be reached at [email protected].

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    Owen RayNov 8, 2023 at 10:35 am

    Love Drop Nineteens, great story