Slowdive by SlowdiveRelease date: May 5, 2017
Label: Dead Oceans
Of all the genres to receive a nostalgia-fueled comeback in recent years, 90s shoegazing is probably the least expected.
It’s not that the albums which gave it its moment in the spotlight were not tremendous – take My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, Ride’s Going Blank Again and Catherine Wheel’s Chrome as examples of their finery – but they seem so at odds with modern music that listening to them now feels like listening to works from not just a different time but also a different dimension.
That’s possibly because looking back, it practically was. In 1995, the last time Slowdive convened as a band, the Premier League was in its first season, Frank Bruno was heavyweight champion of the world, the BBC had just begun digital audio broadcasting, Bridget Jones was a newspaper column and Princess Di was on TV, talking about everything the media was hounding her about. No wonder they went on hiatus.
Well, hiatus isn’t quite the right word. Slowdive morphed into Mojave 3; Neil Halstead, Simon Scott and Rachel Goswell have put out solo albums; Scott joined Lowgold, Goswell joined Minor Victories; Christian Savill formed Monster Movie. As a band, they have done anything but stand still.
Despite all that, there was unfinished business, a thought lurking in the backs of their collective minds that Slowdive still had something to offer. Enter the offer of a few festival headlining dates and that thought became a spark and a desire to not just relive those glorious Just For A Day and Souvlaki years but to create something new, something worthy of sitting alongside those albums.
‘Star Roving’, the first tune from their eponymous return to see the light of day, showed more heft and power than the ethereal wonders that first saw them find fame, but elsewhere on the album, much of what is on offer shimmers in that way that Slowdive do best.
It is an album that lives up to the legacy, carves out a new future and shows off five musicians at the very top of their creative powers.
Each and every one of the eight songs on offer is thrilling. ‘Sugar For The Pill’ is a skyful of dream pop splendour; ‘Don’t Know Why’ has a dizzyingly beautiful driven crescendo; both ‘Slomo’ and ‘Go Get It’ are classic Slowdive, all textured and warm; and the closing ‘Falling Ashes’ has an otherwordlyness that mesmerises and twists with all the beauty and drama of a murmuration of starlings.
It is ‘No Longer Making Time’ that truly stands out as the masterstroke though. Building slowly, it reverberates into a cathedral of swirling sound, Halstead and Goswell’s dual vocals glistening on a surging sea of layered guitars. It is the aural equivalent of climbing a mountain on a beautiful sunny day and then gazing in wonder at the beauty and expanse laid out before you.
Slowdive, the album, shows the return of Slowdive, the band, is not just about nostalgia and money. It is a vibrant and essential work of great beauty, filled with emotion and energy, and worth every day of the 22-year wait for its arrival.