The reunion of long broken up beloved bands is always a nerve-wracking proposition for fans. On the one hand, there will be concerts and, perhaps, new music. On the other, what if they aren’t as good or have lost their fire or produce subpar music together once in a room again? Slowdive have been doing reunion tours for a bit now and have proven they are as incredible as ever live, but what of the new album? I can honestly say that Slowdive’s self-titled is more than worthy of a place in their brilliant catalog. It, in fact, may contain some of their best work. I know that will be controversial but there is embedded in this album a few more decades of songwriting prowess for the individuals in the band. Further, the band has experienced so much more life and that breathes through every note. Is this the teenage, angsty Slowdive of Souvlaki? No, it most certainly isn’t and no one should expect it to be. Slowdive’s self-titled return is triumphant and mature in all the right ways and nostalgic expectations shouldn’t get in the way of realizing that this is an album written by the same band over two decades later. Their experiences matter.
“Slomo” begins with reverb drenched, delayed guitar and this beautiful, fuzzy keyboard. Then the drums kick in and the keyboards glisten, shimmering as they drone. Nick Chaplin’s bass line is perfectly sparse as the track progresses. Of course, the guitar tones are otherworldly and just so lovely throughout. Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Christian Savill have always produced the most luscious guitar tones and this album demonstrates the band’s prowess in that regard throughout. The vocals are also drenched in reverb and have a metronomic cadence as they bounce among the blissed-out drones and shimmering guitars. Both Halstead and Goswell sing on this track, both as a duet together and singing separate lines. “Star Roving”, a track most fans have already heard, is beautifully written with its louder feel and more aggressive guitar tones. The bass is nice and fuzzy and the song even gets the body moving. I have to say that this track was amazing live and, for me, is now a classic track in the Slowdive catalog. As a friend of mine said, this is the sound of a band that has lived some life, produced so many other songs as individuals, and returned to write with old friends once again. It’s glorious in all the right ways.
“Don’t Know Why” begins with pounding snare and that Slowdive signature guitar sound. Chaplin’s bass work on this album is just exceptional as he creates that perfect glue between Simon Scott’s brilliant percussion and the amorphous floating guitars that wash over you. Both Goswell and Halstead trade vocals once again here and, as usual, they are perfection. As the track builds, the guitar layers rise amid an understated melody. This then gives way to the glorious “Sugar for the Pill”. If there ever was a classic Slowdive track on this album, it’s “Sugar”. It has a melancholic feel with a tinge of real life reality. The kind of reality that hits you in the face as you get older and lose all innocence. The bridge on this track is exceptionally beautiful, with shimmering layers, pounding toms, and perfect accents. It’s one of those tracks that gives a Slowdive fan goosebumps and, I think, is really the beating heart of the album.
“Everyone Knows” begins with synths rumbling, acoustic guitar, and bright electric guitars. Scott leads the band into the transition with snare work and off into the blissed out walls the band goes. Goswell is the central singer on this track. Her mesmerizing, lovely vocals hypnotize and sit perfectly among the fuzzy, drifting walls of sound. It’s a glorious demonstration of this band’s ability to create emotive song structures amid tonally brilliant guitar work. They do it like no other. “No Longer Making Time” begins with Scott’s bass drum and snare ushering in the track as bass and picked, shimmering guitars join. Throughout this album, Halstead’s vocals are just haunting and perfect. Once the first lines of the song have been breathed, the guitars soar and that signature Halstead/Goswell/Savill guitar sound just leaps into the speakers.
“Go Get It” glistens with picked guitar and bass that is slightly fuzzy around the edges. This is a slow-moving track with a very moody atmosphere that progresses from quiet lows to soaring highs. The chorus is this beautiful exchange between Halstead and Goswell as they sing “I wanna see it”/ “I wanna feel it”. It’s a long-form song that tantalizes the ears but it is not the longest track on the album. That is reserved for the final track, “Falling Ashes”, which clocks in at just over 8 minutes. It’s is a Pygmalionesque piece and the most experimental on the album. It begins with haunting piano and beautifully layered organ. There is what sounds like a music box sound in the background, like mechanical gears turning, but I also imagine it is the light picking of a guitar. There is a slight fuzz, like the sound of a vinyl record. Halstead sings a melancholy lyric, dreamy and emotive. He croons “Thinking about love / thinking about love” as it echoes in the speakers. The line repeats throughout the track as if to reinforce a desperate longing for a loved one, love lost, or perhaps just a reuniting. It’s a beautiful finish to this self-titled album and it’s a finish that is very much Slowdive-esque.
As I said in the first paragraph, Slowdive is a triumphant return for the band. It encapsulates much of what the band did in their early years with the inclusion of all that they have experienced since then as people and musicians. This is a mature album, soaring and poignant. All eight tracks are strong, demonstrating each member’s strengths throughout. For fans nervous about what this album brings upon the band’s return to the studio, let me tell you that you are in for a treat. Slowdive are back and their newest offering isn’t simply a reunion album, thrown together for such an occasion, but rather it’s a return to form. My only hope is that this is the beginning of much more to come and not their final outing.