For every genre of music, there is at least one massive band that casts it's shadow over the barren fields. To put it in an easily digested way: My Bloody Valentine is to shoegaze as Pink Floyd and King Crimson are to progressive rock; not only are they mentioned in just about every review, but the artist or group being analyzed are often unfairly compared or put up to that certain band's "standards". Slowdive are definately one of these bands, along with such other alumni as Ride, Lush, and Chapterhouse.
Unfortunately for Slowdive, their first album, Just for a Day
, was released the same year as My Bloody Valentine's landmark, instantly classic Loveless
. However, 1993 saw the band releasing what many consider their best album, Souvlaki
, an album that is equal parts shoegaze, ambient, and pop that easily differentiates itself from the pack of shy dogs. There is even some humor in the title (it is a referenced to a Jerky Boys sketch) which plays counterpoint to the stern, solemn artwork and music. Souvlaki
is also greatly influenced by Brian Eno, who took part in playing on two tracks, and cowriting one ("Sing").
But Eno's influence goes far beyond just a few measly tracks; the majority of this collection boasts rich and inviting ambient textures, soaring melodies, and strong songwriting sensibilities. This is most certainly evident as "Alison" kicks things off with a tale of getting high with a girl ("I wear your clothes, when we're both high / Alison, I said we're sinking / But you laugh and tells me it's just fine"
) accompanied by walls of distorted guitar - which is in turn in counterpoint with the clean melodies throughout. "Machine Gun" follows the latter with a realatively downtrotten mood. Covered in heavily treated guitars, it moves with ease between Rachel Goswell's high-register, chiming vocals and Neal Halstead's down-to-earth voice.
Elsewhere, there are more shimmering dream-pop songs, such as the relatively tame and resevered "Here She Comes", a song that could easily be a easy listening hit, "When the Sun Hits", the closest Slowdive come to sounding anything like Ride, with chorused guitars, waves of synthesizer magik, and Halstead's Andy Bell-like voice. "Dagger", however, proves to be the most understated, and best, song on Souvlaki
. Featuring lightly strummer acoustic gutair, droning piano, and grandiouse vocal melodies, it barely goes beyond that one point of volume, but for once this needn't be taken into affect.
You may be wondering about the rest of Souvlaki
, however. And I must say it: majority rules, and the majority of the album lapses into common pitfalls shoegaze. "Sing", despite being cowritten by Brian Eno, is tedious and predictable, while "Souvlaki Space Station" borders on self-indulgent at a song-ruining 6 minutes. There are plenty of interesting sounds and melodies, but none of it goes beyond interesting, such as the case with the Frank Sinatra cover, "Some Velvet Morning", the one song on Souvlaki
that, while being interesting, becomes increasingly dull with repeated listening. Of the latter half of the album, "Missing You" proves original and striking: a song that lets the Eno influence go wild, with drum loops and plenty of atmosphere and density to boot. If "Country Rain" were to be included in the original pressing of the album (all songs after "Dagger" were from the 5
EP besides "Some Velvet Morning"), Souvlaki
would be a much more solid album, with slide guitar flourishes and distant drums as Rachel Goswell's singing "floats" overtop.
is often considered as one of the top three shoegaze albums of all time, alongside My Bloody Valentine's Loveless
and Ride's Nowhere
. Although on it's own being a solid, well-rounded album, it falls short of those previously mentioned bands' accomplishments, if only barely. But do not fear, Slowdive are no mere copycat; despite being a straddling point between MBV's dense, homogenous sound, Ride's crisp, straightforward dreamrock, and the Cocteau Twins' lush melodicism, they still form a unique blend of their own, incorporating elements of these groups and forging them into a fairly unique sound. Credit exists where credit is deserved.