More of the glorious same.Dead Oceans, 2017
8.4 / 10
To me, shoegaze has always seemed to be one of the simplest formulas to a beautiful pop song. Take these fragile, tiny emotions such as love, loneliness, and boredom. And blow them into the fucking stratosphere. The best shoegaze songs probably don’t play best on an acoustic guitar (looking at you, Shields). However, Slowdive has been one of the groups to excel at balancing texture with hooks and violence with mysterious grace. Now, after 22 years, they return with that same formula intact while looking to the future.
Slowdive’s “reunion” record (it’s a thing now) comes after MBV delivered on the shoegaze renaissance. It’s kind of like Souvlaki hanging on the tails of Loveless back in the 90s. Although Souvlaki is arguably a masterpiece of delicate noise, its reception was cold at the time of its release. However, the goodwill Slowdive has amassed since their heyday means they are releasing records into a significantly friendlier atmosphere. It helps that the songs are still brilliant.
We’ve got the anthems. “Star Roving”, the first single, rides off the blissed out swell of a guitar. The arching lines and bed of synths feel almost too sonically perfect. They evoke the same feelings that “Alison” or “Slowdive”(the song) do. Neil Halstead’s songwriting is still solid. Here, relying on chord changes to carry the melody more than individual notes. “Don’t Know Why”, with its post-chorus passages of drums and tumbling synths and Goswell’s falsetto spiraling around, feels like a companion to “40 Days” or “Machine Gun”. And, while I could spend the rest of this review comparing these new tunes to Souvlaki, the point is that the songwriting and arrangements here are as striking and timeless as that sublime record.
Album closer “Falling Ashes” wisely nestles Halstead’s weary voice into the arrangement. His range has noticeably dimmed in the decades apart. This performance highlights how it is this iteration of the band that we now have. Clearly, they are still miles ahead of their copycats. Their pop instincts and innovation probably still untapped. But they play with a world-weariness and resignation that can only come from a group having distanced themselves from the limelight.