To talk about Slowdive, you must invariably talk about what they helped create. After three decades, shoegaze is as much of a stand-alone music classification as it is a feverish cult. As with many religious practices, the genre has its own Holy Trinity in the respect to UK outfits My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Slowdive. Known for their hazy delicacy and nebulous structures, the Reading quintet carved their own distinct path while inspiring a plethora of similarly influenced acts over the years. After three impressive and varied full lengths, Slowdive drifted away on the breeze that so gently nudged them into our consciousness. Most of the membership scattered to solo pursuits including main songwriter Neil Halstead, who took his own dusty path with his country-tinged project Mojave 3. With the benefit of hindsight in the face of the crushing onslaught known as 90s Britpop fever, their mid-90s dissolution was shamefully necessary and well-timed.
Now in the 21st century where nostalgia reigns over the concert landscape, Slowdive came back together in 2014 to rekindle the sounds of the past and fan-driven romance. Inspired by the outpouring of love they received on tour, this January gifted a surprise in a newly announced single and album. As their previous canon literally created the ethereal threads of shoegaze, “Star Roving” is the most anthemic and pop-centered song Slowdive has ever recorded. Exploding with a intense riff and driving beat, this new found grandiosity is both a complete surprise and welcomed achievement. Featuring the timeless duet of Halstead and Rachel Goswell, their voices reach new heights while retaining their heavenly aura: “Give it away now, girl/ Can’t hold down tonight/ Every black and white/ Secret’s a blinking light”. These are not the words of stalwart veterans coming together after a twenty year intermission, but a band excited to make music as a unit once again. With the electricity flying off this teaser working as an indication, Slowdive’s comeback will crackle with positivity and incentive.
The fiery enthusiasm of Slowdive 2.0 does not quit with one flashy single. The well-crafted buildup on “Everyone Knows” reminds of the most adventurous tracks from their lauded LP Souvlaki, connecting fuzzed-out lead guitars to their delicate precursors. “Don’t Know Why” fronts a jittery tempo that manages to settle into a steady exhale of percussion and atmosphere. Gauzy studio layering drapes over Goswell’s voice once again as she still ably reaches her highest vocal register. The articulation of her words breaks the surface for intermittent moments, the meaning of those phrases still obscured by the swirling mix. Her efforts are the necessary element to the inimitable formula of Slowdive, acting as a grounding tether from the remote stratosphere to our rooted earth.
Although their signature sound is firmly cemented by history and adulation, the new efforts here are appropriate reflections on their storied past coated with a modern idealized glossing. Halstead’s lyrics on “Sugar for the Pill” ably mirror that sentiment, his understated breaths ruminating on his past mistakes while sweetening the underlying bitterness in a tender ode. “Sugar for the pill/ You know it’s just the way things are” aches with dual sentiment of being in a band with your former partner in music and life, releasing internal tension without the need for a jealous finality. Goswell and Halstead find common ground again on the album closer, their voices locked together in step with a Radiohead-inspired circling piano. “Falling Ashes” makes for a delicate finishing nod to contemporary songs like “Daydreaming” and “Pyramid Song”, indebted to Slowdive while simultaneously inspiring the band’s revival. When artists roll out a self-titled album late in their career, it is typically meant as a reintroduction to the world as well as a fresh slate for the band itself. Slowdive achieves this maneuver as well as any other, composing eight lush songs that draw from various points in their career while striking a new path of discovery and possibility.
Tue. May 2 – St. Paul, MN @ Palace Theatre
Wed. May 3 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theater
Fri. May 5 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hal
Sat. May 6 – Montreal, QC @ L’Olympia
Sun. May 7 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Mon. May 8 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
Tue. May 9 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
Wed. May 10 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
Thu. May 11 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
Sat. May 13 – Santiago, Chile @ Fauna Otono
Sun. May 14 – São Paulo, Brazil @ Balaclava Fest
Tues. May 16 – Buenos Aries, Argentina @ Niceto Club
Thurs. May 18 – Lima, Peru @ CC Baranco
Fri. June 2 – Oxford, UK @ O2 Academy
Sat. June 3 – London, UK @ Field Day
Sat. June 10 – Skopje, Macedonia @ Zdravo Mladi Festival
Fri. June 16 – Sun. June 18 – Mannheim, DE @ Maifeld Derby
Sat. July 1 – Roskilde, Denmark @ Roskilde Festival
Thurs. July 6 – Trencin, Slovakia @ Pohoda Festival
Fri. July 7 – Madrid, ES @ Mad Cool Festival
Sun. July 9 – Six Four Les Plages, France@ Pointu Festival
Fri. July 21 – Los Angeles, CA @ FYF Fest
Sun. July 30 – Tahar Shi, Japan @ Fuji Rock Festival
Sat. Aug 19 – Trondheim, Norway – Pstereo Festival
Sat. Aug 27 – Paris, France @ Rock En Seine Festival
Thu. Aug. 31 – Salisbury, UK @ End of the Road Festival
Thu. Sept 7 – Tel Aviv, Israel @ Barby Club
Fri. Sep. 15 – Sat. 16 Sept – Angers, France @ Levitation Fest
Sun. Sep. 17 – Birmingham, UK @ Beyond the Tracks Festival