This last year has seen the return of many great bands, in the form of many great albums. From the hip-hop/rap scene in the United States, to the grime flooded dance floors of the UK however, a lot of the rock and indie albums released in 2017 have either gone undiscovered, appreciated almost exclusively at festivals, or simply been covertly enjoyed by the loyal sect of fans of bands as opposed to the masses. The potential, however, for shoegaze to grow – a genre of alternative rock garnished in the 90’s in respect to the musicians performing their work while looking down at their pedal boards on stage floors – is greater now than ever before. Announcing a surprise return to play at music festivals in the summer of 2014, Slowdive is back. And, whilst their unique space-like, ambient sound returns and features heavily in most of their tracks in the new self-titled album, Slowdive excels most in providing people with a journey. This journey is a sensory experience across the depths of time and space, through the medium of guitars, drums, mellow vocals and infinite effects pedals.
As opposed to simply being a blast from the past, or an emergency abdication from retirement, Slowdive’s decision to produce a new album, some twenty-two years since their last one, Pygmalion, proved to be a brave, yet a conveniently well-timed one. With bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Ride back on the map, long-time fans would be eagerly awaiting a response from Slowdive, and with an ambitious new album, they duly delivered.
Composed of a commendably eclectic arrangement of tracks, several being generously well over the five-minute mark, with some breathtaking progression, Slowdive (the album) appears to have not only met but comfortably surpassed all expectations. The album opens with a gorgeous kaleidoscope of sound and wonder in the form of Slomo. Following the style of many of the songs found in Slowdive’s most popular album, Souvlaki (1992), the first track takes us on a dreamlike trip, remembering to remind us of past tunes ever once gifted to us by the band. Followed by the electrifying and somewhat hypnotic Star Roving, the first single from the album, we are then thrust in songs such as Don’t Know Why and Everyone Knows, which whilst carrying the typical Slowdive melancholic vocals and echoing guitars, still provide us with a fresh new take on their musical exploration. In between that, we have the second single from the album Sugar For the Pill. An instant classic, it is probably the best song on the album, closely followed by Go Get It, a surprisingly immersive track, with an understated percussion and bass line. Go Get It is also probably the most Slowdive song in the more literal, semantic sense. The use of chorus, reverb, and phaser on the guitar against the harking vocals lead the listener into what feels and sounds like a slow descend beneath waves. The album then concludes on a bittersweet note, with a piano-led track in Falling Ashes. A harrowing melody, with a sound perhaps drawn in influence from French music duo ‘Air’ (see song Alone in Kyoto), we are given a slower, more melancholic musical story that should strongly resonate with the classic Slowdive experience most of the band’s enthusiasts would have regularly gone through.
All in all, Slowdive’s new self-titled album can be considered as the perfect testament to shoegaze’s capacity to flourish in modern popular culture. A rejuvenation of sorts, the grand use of reverb, echo and dreamlike soundscapes plunge any listener back into the glorious haze of Slowdive’s run in the 90’s. Paying tribute to their trademark sound, yet still pushing for innovation on a more melodic, and accessible standpoint, the album definitely presents itself as a formidable experience from start to finish. It is up to us, as concertgoers, Spotify playlist makers or dedicated album buyers to support this trend whilst it is hot. The heat wave lingers over the horizon, and Slowdive can be seen floating above the rest. Memorable and immaculate, it is a true return to center stage. With their previous album dating back to a time before I was even born, the signs of wonder at gigs like their performance at Field Day, in Victoria Park, London (June, 3rd, 2017) were absolute joys to attend and behold. A must-listen.