It’s been a year of reunions and returns, that’s a fact. Several giants from the past 20 or 30 years came back after decades spent with their heads in the sand and with more or less successful outcomes. Shoegaze lived its golden era between the end of the 80s and the early 90s, as an underrated yet revolutionary chapter in the history of music, right before the disruptive advent of American grunge. My Bloody Valentine’s 2013 ‘MBV’ opened a breach, even Ride have reunited too and are just about to release their new album. Not to mention The Jesus And Mary Chain’s recent comeback with ‘Damage And Joy’. Reading’s Slowdive are the last tessera of a mosaic that is finally going to take a solid shape.
Following their reunion in 2014, the band went on a few dates around the world, playing live for a while. ‘Slowdive’, their self-titled fourth album, out on Dead Oceans, is the first studio offering in 22 years since the Reading’s outfit released their last work – ‘Pygmalion’ – in 1995. I will get straight to the point: it’s a fine piece of art, that kind of return I was not quite expecting and therefore surprised me, in a very positive way.
Slowdive are still Slowdive, and that’s to be said. They grew up, perhaps going through a good deal of self-analysis, and put together a bunch of new tracks that inevitably reflect their past, yet looking at the present in a sharp way. They are still keeping a low profile, and the single ‘Star Roving’ – the first offering off this record, released last March – should not mislead in this sense. The British five-piece are still writing dreamy tunes; fuzzy soundscapes blend with almost inaudible vocals and guitar feedback. The opening ‘Slomo’, for instance, is just what you would expect out of a Slowdive album in 2017. It showcases all the hallmarks of a band who are working on new material keeping well in mind the importance of their legacy, even if transiting in a different space and time. They are confident, they know how to punch your heart, either with ethereal combinations of synths and splendid whispers or with progressions that remind to the glory of the band’s unforgettable early masterpieces.
Don’t get me wrong: Slowdive are not melancholically looking at their past and at a vanished youth. Rachel Goswell and her band-mates are now grown ups and took this new step of their career as a nostalgic yet mature chapter to write music that could finally revive what shoegaze disruptively had to say a few decades ago.
The eight tracks of the album flow gently, bringing the dream-pop experiments of ‘Sugar For The Pill’ or the noir romanticism of ‘No Longer Making Time’, where guitars in delay take the scene and depict the most vivid portrait of the band nowadays. ‘Go Get It’, towards the end of the journey, sounds more like a prayer than a song, with ostinatos and obsessive lyrics (I wanna feel it / I wanna see it) merged with other inaudible vocals.
‘Falling Ashes’ makes it to the grand finale, where dreamy atmospheres take shape again, showcasing a soft arpeggio of piano that emerges through delicate vocals and a coat of synths. It’s the last gem, to be necessarily listened to with your eyes closed, of an album that confirms how great Slowdive were and still are.
The Reading’s five-piece are fearless: they display their new music facing time and age with elegance and willingness to reinvent themselves. And yes, they are still – in my humble opinion – the brightest star in the sky of shoegaze.
Dead Oceans | 2017
Tracklist & Stream