The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2019-07-05
The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry
The Soft Cavalry - The Soft Cavalry

Even while Slowdive was out of the picture, Rachel Goswell has managed to keep busy. First, it was Mojave 3 for over a decade, and then a solo career before getting the gang back together for a Slowdive reunion in 2014. Whereas some 90s rockers haven’t quite gotten the memo that the musical landscape is ever-changing in the 21st century, Goswell has pushed her collective into gorgeous areas. The 2016, hopefully-not-a-one-off debut from Minor Victories was largely underrated, but contained some of the most elaborate compositions that didn’t feel safe for a Slowdive record - pulling more electronic elements and dabbling in a few samples, Minor Victories was largely overshadowed by the promise of new Slowdive music, and the fact that Mark Kozelek was on it - a harbinger of death for any record he’s on now.

With the Slowdive reunion taking a break it seems, Goswell has teamed up with her new husband Steve Clarke for the Soft Cavalry, a dream-pop project that surprisingly sounds like nothing Goswell has done before. When a prominent name in any genre tries to bridge the gap like this it has mixed results. Clarke and Goswell bounce off of each other naturally, something Goswell fans will appreciate from her work with Neil Halstead on Mojave 3 and Slowdive records. Clarke’s got less of a soft presence than Halstead, he’s balancing out Goswell’s dreamy vibe passionately but poignantly.

What many thought would be a Slowdive rip-off with Minor Victories, might have expected the same thing here; The Soft Cavalry is anything but. It’s more upbeat, less somber than anything Slowdive has done. It’s shimmers but also drives forward strongly. The first single “Dive” opens the record up, and it’s a good way to draw the listener in as it features the safest comparison to Goswell’s previous work. It’s dreamy and feels ripped right from the same sessions as Slowdive’s comeback album in 2017 (though Clarke and Goswell were married in 2018). The thing is, I can’t picture Halstead taking Clarke’s place in any of these songs, so the decision to have him take center stage is incredibly risky.

By the time “Bulletproof” starts, it becomes very clear this will not be like Slowdive’s latest outing: drum loops, a duet from the newlyweds, and they harmonize beautifully. Everything about “Bulletproof” works, from the catchy chorus to the modernized shoegaze appeal. Even more so, songs like “Passerby” feel like they were fully inspired by Slowdive’s darkest outing Pygmalion which was initially dismissed when it was released in 1995 but is now considered a classic. “The Velvet Fog” does share some similarities with cuts off of Minor Victories, but it’s still assembled with lush melodies and a booming outro.

On the downside, by the time we reach “Never Be Without You,” it starts to feel like a Clarke album only. He takes center stage on a majority of the album, and it feels a little bit like Goswell’s name is being attached to it for publicity purposes. She supports him in the background on a lot of songs, but is rarely pulled to the front, making the album a little bit lopsided at times. Goswell’s a major talent, it’s a shame she’s on the side. There’s also some deviations from the formula, which aren’t awful, but are definitely distracting from the rest of the album, like “Careless Sun,” which feels like it belongs on Lambchop’s latest album This (Is What I Wanted to Tell You). A deviation, but not totally unwarranted, as it breaks the album into two pieces this way, like “Fitter Happier” did on OK Computer.

Clarke is fairly new to the public eye, and with The Soft Cavalry, he takes the spotlight. As a fresh face being added to the mix, this also marks the first time Goswell has stepped out of her comfort zone. The Soft Cavalry has little association with Slowdive or Mojave 3, though if either of them share anything it’s Mojave 3’s influence on songs like “The Light That Shines on Everyone,” a near-acoustic ballad. All in all, the album is a solid introduction to Clarke. He has a delicate but strong voice, that’s paired elegantly with Goswell. The problem is that it feels more like a solo album than an actual dual project from the two.

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