Review Summary: Slowdive make a resounding comeback with one of the strongest shoegaze albums of recent years, showing modern acts how it’s done and reminding listeners why they’re considered among the best of the genre’s heyday.
Following the return of My Bloody Valentine a few years back, their peers, Slowdive, have also decided to come out of the woodwork for a long-awaited return. A new generation of fans now exist, just like they do for My Bloody Valentine, and the phenomenon of the Internet since the release of their last record has brought a new, revolutionary meaning to word-of-mouth transmission. They have returned with a renewed sense of inspiration after two decades of pursuing other projects like Mojave 3. All of the time passed since their initial heyday during the height of shoegaze has resulted in gaining even more songwriting experience and maturity. They are back with more to say to their long-time fans, and welcome a new generation hungry for fresh material from one of the original greats in the genre.
The appropriately titled Slowdive
takes the qualities of the band’s first two releases to streamline, expand, and freshen that sound for the twenty-first century. It acts as the true follow-up to the band’s masterpiece Souvlaki
after nearly twenty-five years since its release. In an attempt to please newcomers and established fans alike, the album succeeds at exploring new realms for Slowdive. This isn't done in the abstract manner of previous effort Pygmalion
from 1995, technically the predecessor of this. A follow-up to that musical direction may or may not come at some point, but this album is largely not meant to continue in that minimalistic, ambient excursion. It can suit a wide array of emotions and listening moods, having the traditional slow-building, hazy tracks and more up-tempo ones as well.
The beautiful seven-minute epic “Slomo” was a bold choice to begin the album. A looping drum beat and bass line kick it off with atmospherics, dreamy guitars, and vocals all gradually swirling into the mix. It’s a layered, hazy masterpiece that carries a hypnotic quality while still varying up the sounds to prevent stagnation. This is the mantra of the entire album, being surprisingly dynamic with nothing sounding out of place. Every note played feels like it belongs, and avoids coming across as gimmicky or pandering to a specific audience. Following the opener is the band’s most playful song to date, “Star Roving,” a delightful flirtation with post-punk revival and one of the most rewarding surprises on the record.
Much of the album explores different moods, but exorcises some of the bleakness that can be found on the first three records. Still, much of it carries a melancholic tone, like the wistful "No Longer Making Time," and “Sugar for the Pill” in particular dripping with regret. Gently picked guitar melodies support Neil Halstead’s despondent singing for an overwhelmingly sorrowful atmosphere. It’s a perfect example of proving that the band have not lost their emotional resonance one bit in the past two decades. Rachel Goswell’s vocals have also aged like a fine wine over the years, with her angelic singing being essential to the success of tracks like “Don't Know Why,” “Everyone Knows,” and “Go Get It.” The vocal harmonies between her and Halstead are frequently the centerpiece of Slowdive
, as they were on the previous records.
is a triumphant return for the shoegaze veterans, being a victorious blueprint for how a band should return after a long hiatus. It introduces new possibilities for their sound while still sounding familiar enough to fit in comfortably with the rest of their discography. What’s most impressive about Slowdive
is how fresh and striking it sounds in its own right. The band cover all the bases that they could have, even acknowledging their misunderstood masterpiece Pygmalion
in the beautiful minimalist piano ballad “Falling Ashes.” This long-awaited comeback album stands on its own as a remarkable achievement for a band that had to earn their legacy over time, and the love that this album has received reaffirms that legacy, and proves that Slowdive are still capable of exceeding expectations for a modern, invigorating comeback album that cements their talent and emotional resonance.