The first Slowdive album since the 1990s starts with a slow cascade of guitars tinkling, chugging, sliding against one another in beautiful waves. The rhythm taps a head bopping beat and Slomo cruises along, happily, for 2 and a half minutes. Is this real, or a dream? It is Slowdive, and yet it is more than that. Everything they did perfected, distilled.
At two and a half minutes in a male voice rambles in, low in the mix, trembly, like some of those old 1950s boy singers, the voice wavering with emotion or whatever, i can't tell, because the voice is a rumble under those great guitars. Slomo wanders for almost seven minutes, and it says, Slowdive are back, bitches. Shoegaze? We helped invent that shit. So here you go, have some.
And yet, the way that Neil Halstead's voice sounds here recalls his 1970s-drenched Mojave 3 project. It appears that old Neal is a fan on the band Bread. Who knew? But that rich, lethargic male voice sounds good against Christian Savill's beautiful guitarwork.
The next song starts off crunchier, the guitars under layers of harder distortion, overdrive making the guitars grind. Neil steps out of the 1970s for Star Roving, a nice Slowdive rocker. This is their sound, the song moving along at a decent pace, full of distortion and rolling basswork. Shoegazers can pogo too, you know.
The guitars are a high-tinkling in Don't Know Why and, for the first time on this record, we hear Rachel Goswell. She sings delicately, her voice almost a whisper as the guitars soar. It's a really pretty tune.
Sugar For the Pill lets the rhythm section stretch out, Nick Chaplin's bass a nice thumping driving the song along. Neil is back in the 1970s here, his voice hushed over the beat. Rachel adds keys here, which makes me think of this song as a throwback to the mid 1980s, which was before Slowdive's time. It's another really pretty song.
Everyone Knows has that whirring blended guitar sound that Slowdive helped invent. It's not quite the sonic mush that My Bloody Valentine drove the sound to, but the guitars all mesh into one layer of distortion. Simon Scott beats a nice steady drum beat, and Neil and Rachel harmonize. This reminds me of Meeting Places, mostly because that band used this sort of blurred guitar to great effect. But on the choruses, the blurring parts and the guitars are clear for a moment, tinkling along, before rising back into that whirr of sound. Nicely done.
They slow it down for No Longer Making Time, the guitars tinkling in layers. Neil goes back to his Bread-influenced singing, and Rachel adds a nice harmony. The song it builds to a nice roar, the keyboards somehow making a hint of horns.
Go Get It is a different sort of song. It is the one moment on this record that Slowdive fully explore the sparse, almost ambient sounds they made on Pygmalion. The song consists of layers of guitars spreading out through space as two voices sing different bits, another male voice backing up Neil. All of the sounds get louder and denser, more clustered, on the choruses, then spread out again as if the song ebbs and flows like the tides. I like this sort of thing, and this is a fun song.
The final tune on the record is called Falling Ashes and sounds more Mojave 3 than Slowdive. Neil sings slowly, Rachel keeps harmony, and a piano tinkles along. To be honest, this is the least interesting song on the record. It's not bad per se, just ... kind of bland. However, i was not all that fond of Mojave 3, so fans of that act might have a different perspective.
Overall though, this is as fine of an album as Slowdive fans could have hoped for.