Review Summary: Beautiful melodies can't save the debut album from one of the British Dream Pop scene's finest exports from becoming a slippery snooze fest.
Every Shoegaze album has the same cover.
Something swirled and cryptic, perhaps it’s a recognizable shape (see: My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless) and or maybe just nothing (see: most others). The latter is the category in which Slowdive’s 1991 debut album falls into. No doubt this hairy, orange object was once something tangible, but visual distortion has forever entombed it in the unknown. And I guess maybe that can be paralleled to shoegaze music itself. Something normal (simple pop music) morphed into something new, and relatively bizarre. The genre’s other name, dream pop, is a valid description of what’s in store for someone who lacks knowledge on the subject.
Slowdive were a British band (like so many other shoegaze projects) that made music heavily reliant on reverberated guitar sounds (like so many other shoegaze projects). What they brought to the table that was so new and exciting (besides a sophomore album that contradicts my opening statement) was a cinematic element lacking in the sounds of RIDE, The Jesus and Mary Chain and MBV. Right from the get go, Just For a Day presents a side of shoegaze that the movie-going public could enjoy (assume they enjoy the dreariest of films). Spanish Air is far from sunny, but fishes up mental imagery of hazy summer afternoons. Strings in the background add an impending (yet slightly dated) feel to the melody, and a timid synthesizer line in the background gives it shape. The song bears a lot of resemblance to the A.M. pop of British bands of years past, as well as that of early-color motion pictures. And Neil Halstead’s watery drone follows the unspoken rule of the genre, sometimes a whisper is louder than a shout.
The major problem with Just For a Day is its disappointing lack of differences between tracks. While most Shoegaze goes from slow to slower on the speedometer, it’s the bands that throw in differentiating nuances that are the really special ones. A danceable drum beat here or there, an acoustic track, something to move the ball. Just For a Day closest thing to a break from the droning comes in Waves, an extremely wet, mid tempo (even slightly up-lifting) pad driven tune. Waves is one of the most vocal-centric tunes on the album, featuring both the voices of both Rachel Goswell and Mr. Halstead at there most lazily curious. An extended breath of wet mountain air is possibly the best feeling I could liken to the song, but Halstead’s lyrics make a better description than I ever could Waves at play just sooth my pain away/Felt so good to see the sun/I choose my time before I choose the wine/Floating cross the waves the silence runs
As an album, Just For a Day makes a good precursor for Souvlaki (Slowdive’s 1993 masterwork) but it falls into a slow, slightly boring rut. What the band is
good at doing is writing beautiful melodies, and that talent is more than showcased here. This is recommended for fans, but not for those uncomfortable with the cerebral sameness dream pop bands offer up so plentifully. Listening to Day is like watching someone pour fine wine from a bottle in slow motion, it should be like drinking it.