SLOWDIVE – ” Slowdive ” Best Albums Of 2017

Posted: November 30, 2017 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Slowdive 2017 album cover

In 1995 maybe it was not the best time for the shoegaze sounds of Slowdive. Their most obscure record — an instant cult favorite, “Pygmalion”spent none of its time looking at the ground, and all of its 49-minute runtime looking inside an all blue kaleidoscope. It owed more to Brian Eno’s ambient than Brian Jones’ psychedelia, alienating shoegaze fans and quickly becoming a catalyst for the premature end of the band. But trends are a capricious thing and indie pop ended up spending two decades catching up.

Few albums this year sounded as wonderful and complete and thorough as Slowdive. That it’s the first album in 22 years from a band whose moment many thought had come and gone is even more remarkable. Slowdive is deeply connected to their earlier works Souvlaki and Pygmalion, but it also sounds modern, a band that has tracked and absorbed another quarter-century of musical evolution.

The opening sixty seconds of their new self-titled record could easily be confused with a lost Beach House song until two minutes in when Neil Halstead’s voice reappears from hibernation worn and wiser. It wasn’t like he disappeared, he made three solo records and five (!) Mojave 3 records, but 2017 is the time resurrect the output of this cardinal project. Every social media post I saw from the band during their 2014 reunion tour had the tone of humble surprise at the teenagers humming their songs at festivals worldwide.

The premiere track “Slomo” is an almost seven-minute preface to the record. As if 22 years wasn’t long enough, the two-minute intro peaks curiosity before launching into its deliberate extensions of shoegaze, and breezy indie-pop. Breaking into the pre-release teaser “Star Roving”, is a punchy quick five-minute single that feels like two. Most artists tend to mellow out as they age; “Star Roving” is the exception that proves the rule. It’s one of the most dynamic pieces of Slowdive’s career.

The opening duo is well sequenced, playing off of each others energy. “Don’t Know Why” plays at a higher bpm with a floating harmony and a smooth melody, when the full band pushes in.

Slowdive keeps one foot firmly planted in their 90’s heritage but the acquisition of Chris Coady on production is a win . Slowdive shows that their core value is still what it was way back when. The patience to let chord progressions develop and surprise movements have their space, and patience to let simplistic patterns prove strong. The guitar hook on “Sugar For the Pill” is deceptively simple and surprisingly catchy. Halstead’s emotional melody underneath rotates slowly. Ingredients this simple shouldn’t add up to all they do, but the sum is greater than the parts here. “Sugar” plays its clarity and doesn’t over-complicate, Halstead is 15 again writing plain and powerful. Few bands can make the turn from pleasant to intense as quickly and purposefully as Slowdive.

“Everyone Knows” piles on with a noisy collapse, the fifty-four-second outro never loses any steam, just pulsing on, it could have continued for 10 minutes without complaint. “No Longer Making Time” pops into its chorus like it’s going for radio, the guitar piercing like it’s trying to get ahead of the rhythm but never losing synchronicity. The band never falls into self-parody, their noise instincts are too intact from two decades of hibernation. Right when the song sounds like it will kick in for one last chorus, it sputters out, echoing the band’s own faulty trajectory in 1995.

“Go Get It” shows a side of hardness, Its chorus wrecks any beauty remaining from the verse as the multiple guitars continuously assault. “Falling Ashes” proves to be the records only misstep, not quite living up to its cinematic intro. Most of the record’s lyrics are intentionally obscured, but “Falling” has the plainest spoken. Seven songs and 38 minutes probably didn’t seem like enough but leaving the ultimate track off would have been an overall improvement. Or perhaps a moving ambient stretch to hearken back to the underrated Pygmalion.

Whatever band you most hope reunites, you can only hope they do it like Slowdive. Not rushed, not cash-grabbing, but focused on relationships and on furthering the legacy of the band. If anyone asks how to get into Slowdive, the correct answer is still to start with Souvlaki but Slowdive wouldn’t be a bad second choice

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