I walked into a record store on May 5th, 2017 and purchased brand new albums from The Afghan Whigs and Slowdive. It was a surreal, but exciting feeling. I was only nine years old when Slowdive put out their last album, 1995's Pygmalion. I spent most of my teens and 20's catching up on the sounds from this era that I was just a little too young and uncool to initially experience. Slowdive's music was an important discovery for me and I hold 1993's Souvlaki very close to my heart.
From a concert-going perspective, I have benefited from the recent wave of 90's band reunions. Slowdive reunited in 2014 and I had the opportunity to see them live during their U.S. tour that year. They put on an outstanding show. When it was announced that they would be recording a new album, I was delighted, but kept my expectations in check. As a fan of any reunited band, the best outcome you can hope for is that new recordings enhance their legacy instead of detracting from it. I am happy to report that the recently released Slowdive does not disappoint.
I never doubted that Slowdive's members were still capable of releasing quality music. Mojave 3, the band that Neil Halstead and and Rachel Goswell formed after Slowdive dissolved, had moments of excellence. I would even argue that Halstead's last solo album (2012's Palindrome Hunches) has some of his very best songs. I also quite enjoyed Goswell's record with Minor Victories that was released in 2016. Despite this, I will admit that I am still surprised at how consistently strong Slowdive is.
Slowdive never sounds like an album that is trying too hard to recapture former glory. There are moments that sound very familiar though. Everything feels right about the shimmering guitar part that enters opening track "Slomo" at the one minute mark. The guitar burst in the chorus of instant highlight "No Longer Making Time" evokes memories of Souvlaki classic "When The Sun Hits," but the delivery of the two songs could not be more different. Overall, this record unfolds in a way that feels like a logical and mature progression.
It is undeniable that the band's string of live performances in recent years played a large part in recapturing their musical chemistry. It shows that Halstead and Goswell have been working together for more than two decades. Closing track "Falling Ashes" finds Slowdive beginning to explore new territory. The electronic prowess of drummer Simon Scott shines on this track. He co-wrote the song with Halstead and his electronic glitches are a nice compliment to the piano-led closer. It doesn't sound like anything in Slowdive's catalogue and is a very strong note to end on.
In recent interviews, Halstead has not ruled out the possibility of future Slowdive recordings. I hope that is the case because Slowdive is not just a worthy addition to their legacy. It is an album that I keep returning to. I believe it is one of the better albums of the year thus far. Slowdive were one of the best bands of the 90's and in 2017 they have shown that they have what it takes to stand shoulder to shoulder with the artists of today.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid Pop