Slowdive - Slowdive

by Jeff Penczak Rating:9 Release Date:2017-05-05

Reunion albums are inherently saddled with “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” expectations. Particularly for artists who never really left us, but decided to head off in a different musical direction (think Japan, Ministry, Dylan, Bowie, Eno, Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads, or my personal favourite, Der Bohren and The Club of Gore.) Old fans will expect you to pick up where you left off and deliver an album that sounds like it was recorded way back when and then left in the can. New recruits may fear you’re going to abandon them for that old stuff and never deliver another “new” album under your current moniker. So Neil Halstead’s decision to take some time off from Mojave 3 and have another go with Slowdive after 20 years both intrigued and frightened me. Slowdive’s dreamy shoegazing gave us one of the genre’s most cherished discographies, but I’ve settled in quite comfortably with Mojave’s countrified folk rock and singer songwriter material that effectively coalesced the essence of Dylan, Drake, and Cohen. The new tour has been going swimmingly, and reaction to the teaser singles has been positive, so let’s give the album a spin and see who’s going to be disappointed more!

Despite the catchy misspelling, ‘Slomo’ is just that – the sound of snowflakes fluttering to the ground accompanied by Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. So far, so interesting, if not a tad too long. Rachel’s in fine voice, though, and thankfully not shoved to the background, as the catchy romp ‘Don’t Know Why’ will attest! Lead single ‘Star Roving’ has generated a lot of well-deserved excitement with its Stereolab-meets-Raveonettes wall of sound and earwig riff, but like its predecessor, it doesn’t quite know when to quit.

Marketing genius that he is, Halstead knows how to tug the heartstrings (and loosen our purse strings) with the follow-up single ‘Sugar For The Pill’, which cascades across the room like sunshine glistening on a rainbow, one of several tracks that successfully moulds both projects into a brilliant amalgam of melancholia and nostalgia, and by the time you turn the record over and settle in to ‘Everyone Knows’, that cautiously optimistic smile is slowly turning into an ear-to-ear grin and you realise, “Yea, this is gonna work”! Dig out the headphones for this one – the ricochet reverb effect is amazing! And I don’t think anyone was expecting the Windham Hill-like intimacy of epic closer, ‘Falling Ashes’, which takes a simple, haunting piano tinkle (a la Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells') and morphs into a dreamy tearjerker, a la 'Bluebird of Happiness' revisited by Sigur Rós.

So, yeah, Mojave fans may get their panties in an uproar, and Slowdivers may balk at the softening, pop sheen that’s rubbed off from the past 20 years of M3/solo influences, and I will grant that by the time I reached ‘No Longer Making Time’ I couldn’t completely distinguish it from what came before, but so much of what came before is so much better than almost anything I’ve heard so far this year, that I’m willing to forgive and forget and crown this as one of the better returns you’re likely to encounter.

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars