Slowdive, one of the treasures of the Shoegaze genre, reunited back in 2014 to much applause. No one ever thought that this could happen, but once The Jesus and Mary Chain reunited back in 2007, then My Bloody Valentine later that same year, a domino effect had started and since then the world has gotten reunions of classic acts like Swervedriver, Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse, Medicine, Lilys, and of course Slowdive. I guess at this point all that’s left to make this the most amazing time to be alive ever are reunions of Catherine Wheel, Drop Nineteens, The Boo Radley’s, Galaxy 500, and the almighty Cocteau Twins.
At the time of this writing Slowdive are releasing a new album after a 20-year gap. In order to get a better understanding of this one sole act, let’s go all the way back to the very start and dig into their debut self-titled ep released on Creation Records in 1990.
In the words of Creation Records founder Alan McGee, “Slowdive are ethereal.” At least that is what lead singer Neil Halstead said when they first met McGee. He signed them based off hearing a demo tape and then quickly got out the Slowdive ep for mass consumption.
Coming up after already established acts such as Ride and My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive seemed like folks late to the party. That went away almost immediately after garnering rave reviews and media attention for this simple three-track release. What a stunner it is…
Opening song “Slowdive” immediately lets you know what is going to take place. The fuzzy guitars over wash the vocals of both Halstead and second guitarist Rachel Goswell. The duo are what make the band so great, and the way they both bounce off each other and share hooks is dreamy and thoughtful. Their combining vocals always seem to present Slowdive’s music in a more personal way. Like perhaps this is their own story being told. Makes sense seeing as how the two had known each other since childhood and were a couple through most of the bands history. That shared history is what makes this music touching, and not so much a throwaway.
Second track “Avalyn I” is Shoegaze perfection. If you wanted to quickly let someone hear a Shoegaze song, pick either this or “You Made Me Realize” by My Bloody Valentine. I would personally start with “Avalyn I” and turn the volume up to freakin’ 11! The slow buildup of guitars, bass, and drums give the song an eerie quality that keeps the listener wondering what will happen next. You keep expecting things to explode in a cacophony of extreme noise and high-altitude screeching, but nope, it just distills itself and keeps a moody pace throughout, only stopping once the fade ends.
The ambience of Avalyn I cannot be undermined, and that is even more so on track three, “Avalyn II”. A little over eight minutes in length, it is the same song minus the vocals. So really, you have a Shoegaze instrumental and the perfect background noise for one’s pursuit of perhaps a hobby, or even something to ignore. Put the song on repeat, sit quietly with your thoughts and some good headphones and things can get weird.
This was just the start of the band’s quick rise, then even quicker vilified fall. UK music press was and still is, very savage, and at the time it was considered subpar to be lumped in with the Shoegaze genre. Grunge and the massive appeal of Brit-Pop pretty much eradicated Shoegaze, but left in the ashes of those that fell are the treasured tunes of all the bands mentioned above.
After two more ep’s Slowdive released their debut full length Just For a Day. Critics wrote them off and the band retreated into themselves. Nevertheless, out of those depressing times came their best album, Souvlaki. That’s a review for another time though…Dig it.