Turned on by a capricious music press and torn apart by the age-old pull of ‘artistic differences’, Slowdive never really got their full due first time around.
So this years’ reunion has provided a long overdue opportunity for the band to feel firsthand the affection they’re held in and reap the fruits of their enduring legacy, which until now has mostly benefited effects pedal manufacturers, fending off the recession thanks to wave after wave of nu-gaze upstarts trying to emulate the tundra-blasted swirls and mirage-like shimmerings of Halstead and Savill’s guitars.
They open with the eponymous track from their very first release. It couldn’t be more appropriate. Like ‘Repetition’ from The Fall’s Bingo-Master’s Breakout or ‘What A Waster’ by the Libertines, ‘Slowdive’ was the sound of a band setting out their stall right from the start of their career – “This is what music sounds like now, hope you like it.” And of course, everyone in attendance is very much enamoured.
It’s no surprise that everything from the classic ‘Souvlaki…’ hits home, and though Rachel has a little trouble pitching her breathy vocals at first, ‘Machine Gun’ is the crushingly beautiful highlight.
What’s less expected is the way in which the pieces from the all-most-not-there-ambient ‘Pygmalion’ are rendered. ‘Crazy For You’ no longer drifts but drives, with Chaplin’s bass taking on an almost industrial throb. And the stunning ‘Blue Skied An’ Clear’ also achieves a more muscular manifestation. Unlike the record, the chorus don’t just morph themselves out of an echoing sonic miasma, but instead arrive following a steady percussive build, staring with Goswell adding some subtle shaker and ending in Scott thundering down on the full kit, only for the clouds to clear and the sun to burst through as that timeless, elegiac riff hits home.
Amid the strobes and trippy visuals Slowdive sound massive and immediate, blasting two decades of imitators out of the water with a sound that they alone are truly masters of. Let’s just hope they do an accelerated MBV and release some new material without making us wait another lifetime.