It's time to make a full confession that may not endear me to a lot of people: I am not a huge Slowdive fan. Never was. That said, my non-fandom never approached Nicky Wire-levels of antipathy; I did, after all, see Slowdive spin-off act Mojave 3 in 1996 or so with Lush. Slowdive, however, were never quite loud enough to thoroughly win me over like My Bloody Valentine did. Still, they were remarkably good at crafting a kind of shoegaze that allowed room for more than just feedback-drenched workouts. And their new, self-titled album, their first record in 22 years, is a wonderful thing.
Seemingly having learned how to blend their earlier styles with the forward-thinking vibe of landmark record Pygmalion, Slowdive seems to me to be the band's most consistent record yet. If single "Star Roving" very nearly roars by, it's material like the Cocteau Twins-recalling "Don't Know Why" that thoroughly made me a fan of this band again. If "Sugar For the Pill" allows Neil Halstead to offer up one of his best melodies in decades, "Everyone Knows" chimes and then erupts into great big swashes of harmonic color, the effect nearly a sublime one. Elsewhere, "Go Get It" strays into more conventional, rockier territory, while epic-length closer "Falling Ashes" sees the band ride a simple, Sakamoto-like keyboard line into musical glory.
At their very best here, Slowdive seem to be channeling something like the sounds found on that album the Cocteaus made with Harold Budd. Still, the music here is far too focused to be labeled ambient, for example, but it's also not as hard-edged as that of the bands who rose up in the first wave of shoegaze. A far more apt comparison would be to the music of Seefeel but, frankly, the 8 tunes on Slowdive are far sturdier, and more traditional, in the ways that they need to be to allow this material to remain both expansive and grounded.
[Photo: Ingrid Pop]