Slowdive satisfies after 22-year hiatus
One might be inclined given Slowdive’s monumental reputation and acclaim to approach the band’s first album in 22 years with a certain degree of caution and skepticism. And understandably so. After all, following their dissolution in 1995, the band seemed to recede into obscurity. The members dabbled in other projects such as the country-tinged dream pop of Mojave 3 and the recent post-rock effort Minor Victories, neither of which gaining enough traction to rival Slowdive’s highly esteemed discography. But as the opening track fades in all previous convictions begin to melt away. Each song being no less engaging than the last to provide a listening experience which is both immediately satisfying and deeply enjoyable.
We are introduced to the album with the track 'Slomo', with its twinkling guitars, subtle percussion and the instantly recognisable vocals of Halstead and Goswell swirling in and out, complementing one another no less than they did 22 years ago. It is both airy and enthralling, enticing the listener to surrender themselves to its surreal, spacey world. This track is very much reminiscent of the band’s 1995 album, Pygmalion, a collection of tracks which blurred the line between ambient and dream pop, proving to be divisive among listeners. However, underlying this track is only warmth as it welcomes and beckons the listener the allow themselves to become lost in its reverb drenched soundscape. Similarities between Slowdive and Pygmalion prevail here in tracks such as 'Don’t Know Why' and 'Falling Ashes'. The former featuring a heavenly vocal performance from Goswell, who is barely audible amongst all the distortion. Whilst the latter is subtle and weightless but no less striking, an emotionally devastating track with the hypnotic and repetitious refrain “thinking about love” encouraging us to do just that.
The album does call upon some of the more grandiose moments of their other releases, in particular Souvlaki can be heard on tracks such as the ear-worm inducing and upbeat 'Star Roving' and the almost synth pop 'Sugar for the Pill'. It goes without saying that there is something here for Slowdive fans and first time listeners alike. It is made evident that the band know how to play to their strengths, pulling from the best moments of their discography to present us with something that is at once familiar and refreshing.
The only track I had any real gripe with on the album is 'Go Get It'. The vocal performances here feel a little flat with the half-hearted exclamation of “I want to see it, I want to feel it” repeated to the point of excess. However, the bombastic instrumentation and the meticulous attention to detail draw away from these shortcomings, resulting in a track which is still highly enjoyable and a worthy addition to the track listing.
Songs here are purposeful but progress seemingly on their own terms as they disentangle to reveal spectacular displays of beauty, as has come to be expected from the shoegaze pioneers. Whatever your expectations of this album may be it is surely one that you don’t want to miss.