Slowdive are a band who were cast as part of the “shoegaze” movement on the early 1990s. Music in which the guitars drifted and occasionally roared, and the vocals were dreamy. Haircuts were floppy. I was not averse to this music, but for some reason I never got into Slowdive. I liked Ride and My Bloody Valentine (who were a bit more discordant), loved the Cocteau Twins, who would have influenced the shoegazers, and also enjoyed some of the bands who followed, with related sounds. Sigur Ros, British Sea Power for instance. But still, somehow, Slowdive never got on my radar.
Until we decided to go to Field Day in Victoria Park, Hackney this year. That was last Saturday. Slowdive were the headline indie band and I thought it might be worth hearing their latest album, “Slowdive”. The first for 22 years.
And I’m so glad I did check it out. I love it, and it has finally made me listen to something other than Honeyblood! It’s an album of big sounds, dreamy vocals (still), a real majesty. I really like the guitar sounds. They build, they chime and then they roar. All those bands I mentioned earlier are in there – so too, Coldplay and U2. These are all recommendations by the way. I love all those bands.
I’ve been listening to the album a lot since Field Day. I’ve found it quite moving. Like so many great albums there is an underlying melancholy, but it is expressed in those big, ethereal sounds. (I limit myself to only one “ethereal” in any review!). Highlights switch around, as with any great album, but I do love “No Longer Making Time”, which starts slow and just builds, guitars chiming and then gushing, roaring. Is it anguish, or celebration? “Sugar for the Pill” chimes beautifully, and “Star Roving” is the (relatively) fast one. The one that the boys were moshing to last week. It’s got a beat to it. “Don’t Know Why” is the closest thing to the Cocteau Twins. Some prog-folky vocals to start, before those chiming, surging guitars take over. And last track, “Falling Ashes”, works from a similar piano refrain to a similar effect as Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” from “A Moon Shaped Pool”.
It’s the atmosphere created by the guitars that do it for me. Like they do for the great U2 albums, for Sigur Ros, for Coldplay even. The vocals add humanity and enhance that sense of immersion. The guitars, though, are the thing that take you on the journey.
The band have a show at the Roundhouse on 13 October. It’s not sold out yet, but when I bought a ticket today there weren’t all that many left. Worth checking out if you like what I’m describing.