Slowdive, a name that resonates with reverence in the annals of alternative music. Formed in Reading during the late 1980s, a moment when the music world found itself in a state of transformation with the ascent of alternative rock and the burgeoning college radio scene. In an era where new musical genres seemed to emerge as swiftly as the seasons, Slowdive surfed the wave of burgeoning bands that would eventually be affectionately christened as shoegaze, a term inspired by the guitarists’ proclivity to cast their gaze downward, intently focused on their effects pedals.
Their debut EP in 1990 bore their hallmark sound. It was as if they had invented a new language, one where reverb-soaked guitars and ethereal vocals converged to create lush, atmospheric landscapes. Just for a Day (1991), their first full-length album, was a declaration of their intent. Tracks like Spanish Air and Primal invite you to close your eyes and lose yourself in the embrace of sound.
Souvlaki, released in 1993, undoubtedly stands as Slowdive’s magnum opus and a seminal moment in the history of alternative music. This album, even decades after its release, continues to hold a special place in the hearts of both fans and critics, solidifying Slowdive’s position as shoegaze luminaries. Tracks like Alison and Machine Gun are nothing short of spellbinding. Alison is a dreamy masterpiece that wraps listeners in a warm embrace of lush guitars and ethereal vocals. The reverb-laden soundscapes create a sense of weightlessness, as if you’re floating through a hazy dreamscape.
But like any great story, Slowdive’s narrative included an intermission. In 1995, they disbanded, leaving their audience eagerly awaiting the next act. This hiatus wasn’t a silence but rather a pause between scenes, allowing their legacy to grow and evolve in their absence. Their music continued to resonate, finding new ears and inspiring a wave of shoegaze revivalists.
In 2014, they returned to the stage in a triumphant comeback. Their self-titled album in 2017 was a revelation, proving that their creative spark remained undiminished. Slowdive was back, seamlessly reintegrating into a musical landscape that had evolved in their absence. The album wasn’t an attempt to recapture past glories; instead, it was a bold statement of their continued evolution as artists.
The band’s essence lies in their ability to transport listeners to an alternate reality where sound becomes a vivid, emotional language. Their music is a cinematic experience, each track a scene in a larger narrative. Guitars layer like finely crafted shots, surreal vocals become the dialogue, and the immersive atmospheres set the stage. This is a band that paints with sound, telling stories and evoking emotions.
Everything is alive, Slowdive’s fifth record and our Fopp Album of the Month, is exactly what the title suggests: an exploration into the shimmering nature of life and the universal touch points within it. While there are parts of this record that could sit neatly next to the atmospheric quality of 1995’s Pygmalion; ‘Everything Is Alive’ also manages to break down the boundaries of what’s come before it. Spanning psychedelic soundscapes, pulsating ’80s electronic elements and John Cale inspired journeys, the album lands immediately as something made for 2023 and beyond. For a genre that is often thought of as divisive, and often warrants introspection, here Slowdive show their craft as the masters of it by pushing it outwards, beyond the singular; the end result being a record which feels as emotional and cathartic as it is hopeful.