Slowdive Slowdive Dead Oceans
Hands up if you didn’t see this one coming? When Slowdive announced new material, admittedly we had our doubts. Despite the reformed shoegaze band’s solid back catalogue, their desecration by the British music press, who favoured grunge and Britpop, left their potent contribution to 90s guitar music tarnished in the minds of many. The good news is, this album – their first in 22 years – is pure vindication in the face of the shabby journalism to which they were subjected. It’s also a means of discovery for a new audience, which will no doubt paint their history differently to a younger generation of fans.
Slowdive’s fourth LP contains a vitality that, in places, leaves you breathless. This isn’t down to any seismic change in their make-up. Rachel Goswell and Neil Halsted’s vocals still sit on top of the shimmering sounds, soft and sometimes understated, but with enough substance to add the extra layer of beauty. The guitars also still soar with majestic effect. Opener Slomo sets the tone for the majority of the record, where sounds meld and move beneath a glossy riff, and obvious single Star Roving is a superb piece of exuberant, hands-in-the-air guitar pop.
Unlike Slowdive’s classic 1995 album Souvlaki, there’s a greater urgency to this record that eschews the languid pace of their much lauded older material. There are changes in pace that catch you off guard (Don’t Know Why) big hazy soundscapes (Everyone Knows) and the aforementioned soaring moments that display to the real power shoegaze guitar can wield (No Longer Making Time). The blueprint which Slowdive helped to create in the 90s been fully adhered too, but it’s magical to hear it deployed in a manner of such abandon.
The sadness of the closing piano ballad Falling Ashes recalls past turbulence, with the refrain “thinking about love” repeated with a simplistic but totally chilling effect. The song’s lyrics (“gathered in light you were the grace of my night”), if not specifically about Slowdive the band, recall an affection for someone whose presence may have faded into a distant memory. In the process, this sentiment concludes a welcome return for a band whose wounds have healed.