Shoegazers eh? Nothing but students who’ve all blown their grants on effects pedals and second hand Cocteau Twins records. Floppy haired wasters, the lot of ‘em. A good spell in the army would sort ‘em all out. And improve their posture.
Slowdive and their ilk will be forever nailed to a particular place and time. London. Early 90’s. Every pub, bar and club in the Thames Valley had a bunch of pale, skinny, black clad undergraduates, My Bloody Valentine-ing themselves to death in the corner back then. The NME built them up, then dropped them like a burnt out flanger once they smelled Grunge on the breeze. Quietly, the shoegazers finished their degrees, part-exchanged their Fender guitars for sensible, family cars, everyone bought “Nevermind” and that moment was never mentioned again.
Or so we thought. The members of Slowdive played the long game. After mutating into the Country/Rock/Pop Mojave 3, they’ve mutated back, blown the dust off their chorus pedals and have made a new record.
It’s really good. Seriously.
Time has been kind to Slowdive. “Shoegaze” is now “Dream Pop” and it’s a much cooler proposition. The style is broadly the same as the early 90’s model and fans of reverb drenched guitars and barely audible vocals can rest easy in their beds. What has changed however, is the strength of the material. “Sugar For The Pill” is a case in point – underpinning all the swooshing noises is a great tune with a lovely, narcotic atmosphere. Fans of the latterday albums by Australian Psych-Rockers The Church, should grab this with both hands. To their credit, they’ve polished up the “40 minute iPhone jams” that spawned these songs, into tightly structured pieces with the excess fat neatly trimmed. “No Longer Making Time” clocks in at 5.48, but there’s not a second wasted. It shimmers and sparkles in a most agreeable manner. There’s a great use of structure and dynamics at work here, so just when you think, “I wish something else would happen here”… something else happens. “Falling Ashes” is based on a four note Piano ostinato which plays unbroken through the songs entire eight minutes. Does it get boring? Nope. The piece is so well structured that: a. You hardly notice that the song is longer than four Ramones tunes and: b. You never find yourself wishing that bloody Piano would stop.
“Slowdive” teaches us some valuable lessons. Never write off musicians just because they were in a momentarily hip genre twenty-two years ago. Long songs can hold your attention if you let them. And most importantly, never sell your chorus pedal, no matter how broke you are. You’ll never know when you’ll need it again.
“Slowdive” is out now via Dead Oceans