Slowdive is back with a new self-titled release, hotly anticipated by those ear-to-the-ground music journalists who still remember – and are willing to admit – how great 1992-1995 was for music, and especially by their very active shoegaze fan scene (much of it quietly celebrating itself, and this music, online in a globe-spanning community that is one of the best parts of the current, and often dicey, world of social media.) Fans new to this music will find out quickly what the buzz is all about, especially those who can get to one of the shows on Slowdive’s tour beginning this week.
The years truly do not matter for dedicated fans of a form of music that was almost continuously underappreciated in the mainstream (and even by the record label powers that were). But the time that has passed, those 22 years for all of us, is noteworthy, in the way that resurrection of important music & genres is always remarkable. The 18 months of recording and working to make art against the odds of today, of life that inevitably grows up around a band who has had to move on in different configurations, together, alone and with their loved ones over a couple of decades, and the self-titled record coming now, too, is an assertion, a separation from the titles that were chosen in a youthful whim or influenced by factors and pressures long gone. This is Slowdive: Slowdive. The past is done and gone. You can’t get your facts from Wikipedia. You must buy it, hear it, see it, feel it before you can speak about it. We’re going back.
The new album has been preordered for May 5th. The Slowdive tour has started. It travels now from Forth Worth, Texas, this week alone to St. Paul, Minnesota, to Chicago, to Toronto (and there, to lucky us, on the same day the album is out) Montreal, Washington D.C., Brooklyn, and Carboro N.C. Then from Atlanta to Brazil, Chile, Argentina and home to the U.K. for more dates. This tour map gives you an idea of this remarkable band’s global fanbase and personal networks; its connection to them, and of a special kind of currency, an internal logic and a natural rhythm of its own, known only to the band.
Released publicly are the two new tracks “Star Roving” and “Sugar for the Pill.”
“Star Roving” begins with a fully keyed up layered riff that is classically Slowdive, with an ability to create instant excitement. Neil Halstead’s vocals are warm and assured and Rachel Goswell is in perfect subtle harmony, thrilling all who’ve worn out Souvlaki and Pygmalion. It sounds like a band in perfect rhythm on their seventh or eighth album, as they deserved to be, had they not been dropped way back when. Slowdive is stronger than time, or indifference, or all those bottom lines that have nothing to do with art or with love.
“Nothing left to lose. Nothing left to fight.”
Slowdive is at ease right here, at peace with the past and the uncontrolled factors of music and life itself. The song is rambunctious but perfectly paced, like a racing heartbeat. Or is that mine?
“Sugar for the Pill” is a different kind of thrill but no less heady. It begins with a slightly (but not too) contemporary sound. It is softer & gentler, signaling that it’s going to tell us of “the only lovers left alive” and a “roller-coast” and jealousy. The words are sad, but the music has an uplifting sound like a long summer day. That rare perfect day of youth that feels endless in the best way, but sings of adult concerns, and carries the melancholy of maturity. Yet, it sings. It’s hard to put a finger on why, exactly. It must be something in Halstead’s vocal style here and the minimal vocal presence detected from Goswell, but it is evocative of Slowdive follow up project Mojave 3, which is as cherished to this writer as the earlier material.
What these two carefully selected songs, different in tone and timbre, do, is show facets of a sound that meet up on the shores of 22 years of longing, anticipation, growth, and unkillable chemistry. This is part of shoegaze’s and Slowdive’s and the starving world of music’s long overdue renaissance. Of our overdue joy. And it’s already shaping up to be a new classic.
(We’ll have a full album review post- May 5th). We’ll also review the Toronto show on May 5th with some pictures (hopefully) to share. Prior to starting this website, we saw Slowdive at the same venue October 28th, 2014, riveted to our balcony seats, itching (and trying) to sneak into the standing room floors. But there were no bad views or poor sound pockets. The waves washed over us and pinned us there. Time became elastic and drifted. We took crummy phone pics from the balcony which still served to remind us of one special night in our fortunate city’s most charming & least pretentious venue. That show, along with a revelatory night with Johnny Marr, preceded and helped drive us to create this forum to celebrate, discuss, review and showcase the most important music of the past, present and future. And we are so glad Slowdive is returning to the same venue once more.
Jacqueline Howell is the co-founding editor of DISARM Magazine and is happy when music makes her cry. On twitter: here.
Banner photo: Ingrid Pop