After a two-decade hiatus, post-rock/shoegaze titans Slowdive delighted fans in January with “Star Roving,” their first single in 22 years! After such a prolonged absence, it was refreshing to hear the familiar churn of Neil Halstead’s reverb-drenched guitar and Rachel Goswell’s airy vocals. Fans wondered whether a full album would contain the same magic as the first single. Thankfully, “Star Roving” was indeed a sign of great things to come. The arrival of “Sugar For the Pill” in March proved how these British legends have only improved with time.
Today, we offer our views of their fourth studio album, Slowdive, out today via Dead Oceans. This album is a return to basics, both in style and lineup. Not only is this their first full-length studio release since Pygmalion in 1995, it’s the first with the full original lineup (including drummer Simon Scott) since their 1993 LP, Souvlaki. Does this album’s eponymous title signal a new chapter for the band? If a fresh start is their goal, they have succeeded. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a recent convert, Slowdive offers plenty to savor and appreciate.
Slowdive are: Neil Halstead (vocals/guitar/keys), Rachel Goswell (vocals/guitars), Christian Savill (guitar), Nick Chaplin (bass), and Simon Scott (drums).
The album is available on all streaming and downloading sites, but if you want to buy it we suggest getting it from their Bandcamp page, which includes digital, CD, vinyl, and cassette options.
Featured photo is by Ingrid Pop.
As an admitted fan of British music in general and shoegaze in particular, my wait for a new Slowdive album was painfully protracted. But oh, how these songs are worth 22 years of patience! While the first single “Star Roving” was a breath of fresh air, it was the exquisitely sedate “Sugar for the Pill” that took my breath away. The opening strains evoke imagery of fog or mist rising over a river. That familiar motif works especially well with the lyrics “You know I had the strangest dream.” The first half of the album has a fever dream quality, prompting the listener to wonder, “Is this really happening, or am I imagining this?” The misty haze of that song foreshadows the rainy vibe of the sixth track, “No Longer Making Time,” with its gently hypnotic tones that yield to thunderous passages. That’s when it sinks in that yes, this album is everything fans could have hoped for and more.
We hoped for a powerful return from these legends, though with some reservation since so few bands deliver a comeback album that is solid from start to finish. Usually a reunion effort includes one or two strong, radio-friendly singles nestled between mediocre filler. The content on Slowdive is stunning and grand until the last note. Its eight tracks contain 45 minutes of pure shoegaze/post-rock brilliance.
This whole album has a déjà vu familiarity. Perhaps that’s because we’ve heard Slowdive’s influence on scores of bands in the last 20 years. Now that this album is a reality, we no longer have to wonder if we’ve dreamed its arrival. Slowdive is already in my Top 5 Albums of the Year. Massive thumbs-up from me.
As long as we have been doing the First Impressions segment, rarely (if ever) do all of us completely come together and emphatically agree that an album is completely and thoroughly ace. I do believe with Slowdive, though – that day has come. If anything, this new album has definitely been well worth waiting for. After hearing the singles “Star Roving” and “Sugar for the Pill”, I was extremely optimistic of their new release but didn’t want to be let down, either. “Sugar for the Pill” easily contends for best single of the year as it’s simply divine. I was expecting those two lead singles to be their best work on the album with maybe one more standout, and I was quite blown away with their entire 8-track offering.
When the opener “Slomo” properly sets the stage and puts us in a dreamlike state right off the bat, I became even more optimistic. “Don’t Know Why” is dreamy and hazy goodness from start to finish. Then there is “Everyone Knows”, a beautifully constructed wall of harmonies and stellar guitars that captivates with Ms. Goswell’s light and airy vocals. “No Longer Making Time” is another knockout track that makes you realize how much of the talented British quintet has been missing in our lives for these last two decades. “Go Get It” is probably the one track that shows the growth of the band as a whole and takes us in a slightly new direction. That direction includes a combination of experimental/progressive rock along with shoegaze which makes for 6 minutes of captivating sounds. The closer is “Falling Ashes” and it’s a beautiful track which is keys-based and could almost put you in a trance.
The entire effort by these shoegaze pioneers is everything you would want in a comeback record and much, much more. Hopefully the quintet feel the satisfaction of redemption as well with this release since they were ostracized by the UK music press and their previous label immediately dropped them after their Eno-esqe Pygmalion came out. After 22 years, this album is well worth the wait and easily a top contender for AOY. If you weren’t obsessed over tracks like “Alison” and “Souvlaki Space Station” back in the 90s, then hopefully you will become completely immersed in this record which has the power to take you to euphoric heights over and over again. Massive thumbs up and so very well done.
The last time Slowdive released an album, I was seven years old. That’s a damn long time between records. A lot can change in 22 years, tons of bands have come and gone, and reunited. When I first heard about the new record, I was cautiously optimistic. Lots of bands, especially from a similar era and genre released less than exciting comeback records. However, right out of the gate, “Slomo” eased most worries, as it builds beautifully with synth and guitar, and my goodness those vocals.
The rest of the album is just as breathtaking as its opening moments. “Star Roving” was the first single from the reborn Slowdive, and fits nicely as the second track on the record, picking up the pace and featuring an incredible guitar roar. “Don’t Know Why” is this track with so many layers to it that mesh together so well. On “Everyone Knows” gorgeous harmonies and perfectly executed guitar work create an immersive wall of sound. “Go Get It” is a knockout track, it builds, multiple times into a huge whirlwind of sound that is distinctively Slowdive. “Falling Ashes” ends the record perfectly, it’s beautiful, and hypnotic.
It’s fitting Slowdive named this record after themselves. It embraces everything that they were decades ago, and builds upon it. It’s a record that doesn’t rely on rehashing old, tired sounds. It’s a statement, that Slowdive is back, and as good as ever.
A lot of the finest things in life age gracefully and beautifully. Wine, scotch, and cheese tend to get better as they get older. In music, this mantra doesn’t always apply, as even some of the classics can feel dated and older bands lose the pulse of a new generation’s tastes. We’ve already witnessed some decent and not-so-great comebacks of bands who occupied radio stations in the ’80s and ’90s. In the case of Slowdive, the great shoegaze band of the late ’80s and early ’90s, they buck the trend. Check that; they obliterate it with Slowdive, exceeding even the grandest of expectations.
The first released single, “Star Roving”, which was shared in January, was just the tip of the iceberg. It was an emphatic “Hello! We’re back!”, as the band offered us the familiar, cosmic shoegaze of their past but with sparkling results. The second single, “Sugar for the Pill”, was breathtaking and remains among the best songs of the year. It is not simply a brilliant song but a work of exquisite art. It is a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination.
With two fantastic songs out of the gate, surely Slowdive couldn’t capture this brilliance for an entire record? Well, they did and then some. The opening song, “Slomo”, is spellbinding, re-introducing listeners (or welcoming newcomers) to their beautiful sonic wonderland, which if it had a name would be called Ecstasy. “Don’t Know Why” is similarly dazzling as Rachel Goswell’s vocals shimmer within the shoegaze soundscape. But the one song that comes closest to matching “Sugar for the Pill’s” grandeur is “No Longer Making Time”, as the delayed guitar acts as the guiding light while Neil Halstead and Goswell take us on an epic journey. This song also best represents the Slowdive many of us grew up with, where there is a point in the middle of the track that reaches a moment of transcendence and your mind is suddenly in some far off, unexplored universe.
Although Slowdive shares many similarities to the band’s beginnings, there is some growth, particularly on “Go Get It”. More post-rock than shoegaze, this number has serious jam potential in a live setting. It is reminiscent of My Morning Jacket’s slow-burning growlers, such as “Steam Engine” and “Dondante”. As the song reaches its zenith, it feels like a band re-awakening from its long hibernation. While they’ve been asleep for 22 years, they still have it and then some, for Slowdive is an instant classic and – I think I speak for us all – undeniably one of the best albums of the year.
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