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Music / Slowdive

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Slowdive are a British Dream Pop/Shoegazing band, originally active from 1989 to 1995 and reunited in 2014. They are named after the Siouxsie and the Banshees song "Slowdive", and next to My Bloody Valentine, they're considered one of the best examples of their genres. The band consists of Rachel Goswell (vocals, guitar, keyboards, tambourine), Neil Halstead (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Nick Chaplin (bass), Christian Savill (guitar) and Simon Scott (drums).

The band was formed by childhood friends Goswell and Halstead, with Chaplin and Savill joining shortly thereafter. They signed to Creation Records with only one demo, having caught the attention of an EMI A&R at a show they played with the band Five Thirty, while the average age of the band members was 19. Their first release, a self-titled EP, got them critical praise in the British press. Sustaining their momentum with two more EPs, they then released their first album, Just for a Day in 1991. They quickly got compared to My Bloody Valentine, and while they were an influence, Slowdive never fit in completely with the shoegaze aesthetic, owing more to the Cocteau Twins.

Their second album, Souvlaki, contains some of their most popular songs, such as "Alison", "Machine Gun", "40 Days", "Sing", "Souvlaki Space Station", "When the Sun Hits" and "Dagger". With time, it has also found a place in the canon of landmark shoegaze albums next to MBV's Loveless, Ride's Nowhere, and Lush's Split. An additional EP that year, Outside Your Room, saw them experiment with influences from ambient techno and country. However, the shoegaze fad in the UK was dying down around this time and even earning Hype Backlash; also, US distributor SBK Records' attempts at promoting their albums in the midst of grunge were incredibly incompetent and stupid. Additionally, SBK pulled funding, forcing the band to finance two 1994 US tours themselves.

A week after the 1995 release of their third album Pygmalion, which departed from the band's previous albums in favor of an experimental sound with electronic and Post-Rock influences, they were dumped by Creation. Halstead had been threatened that their relationship with the label would end unless they delivered a "pop album", and predictably, he completely ignored them. Slowdive broke up around this time; Chaplin and Savill left, while Goswell, Halstead and McCutcheon regrouped as Mojave 3 and signed to 4AD Records. With Mojave 3, they instead focused on combining Dream Pop, electronic experimentation and country influences.

A Twitter account and website in the band's name were launched in January 2014, sparking reunion buzz. Sure enough, it was announced to much fanfare that Slowdive had reunited to play the 2014 Primavera Sound festival. A summer world tour was also announced shortly after. On 12 January 2017, they released "Star Roving", their first single since 1994; the same year, on 5 May, they released their self-titled fourth album to even greater fanfare. On 1 September 2023, they released their fifth album, everything is alive, which reached the top 10 in both the UK's Official Albums Chart and the Billboard Top Album Sales chart.

Slowdive has actually done more for their genre than they're given credit for — unsurprisingly, considering shoegaze bands other than MBV suffer from severe Overshadowed by Awesome. Their mellower sound stood out like a sore thumb amid the shoegaze scene's ear-shattering loudness, and alongside the Czech band Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (who moved into ambient and techno soundscapes), they helped innovate shoegaze's electronic aspects. Whereas MBV provided the blueprint for the monstrous instrumental form of shoegaze, based around a combination of brutally loud guitars and soothing melodies, Slowdive's copious use of reverb, very slow songs and overall spaciness made bands like M83 and A Sunny Day in Glasgow possible.

Classic line-up:

  • Neil Halstead - Vocals, guitar, keyboards
  • Rachel Goswell - Vocals, guitar, keyboards, tambourine
  • Nick Chaplin - Bass
  • Christian Savill - Guitar
  • Simon Scott - Drums, guitar, electronics

Former members:

  • Adrian Sell - Drums (1989)
  • Neil Carter - Drums (1989–91)
  • Ian McCutcheon - Drums (1994–95)

Studio discography:

  • Slowdive EP (1990)
  • Morningrise EP (1991)
  • Holding Our Breath EP (1991)
  • Just for a Day (1991)
  • Outside Your Room (1993)
  • Souvlaki (1993)
  • 5 EP (1993)
  • Pygmalion (1995)
  • Slowdive (2017)
  • everything is alive (2023)

Tropes close and feelings flow:

  • Album Title Drop: Just for a Day is a lyric in "Celia's Dream".
  • all lowercase letters: The song titles on everything is alive, such as "kisses" and "skin in the game", are stylised in lowercase letters.
  • Break-Up Song: Souvlaki has a few, since Neil and Rachel's relationship ended before it was recorded. "40 Days" and "Dagger" were written from Neil's perspective, while the lyrics to "Souvlaki Space Station" came from Rachel's.
  • Better as Friends: Neil and Rachel at the end of it all, as it seems. The two never seem to hold any ill will to each other following their breakup, even forming Mojave 3 together (with Rachel only leaving due to health reasons).
  • Butt-Monkey: Hoo boy. With the treatment of their label and reviews mocking them simply because of the backlash shoegaze received, they got this status... until being Vindicated by Historyinvoked kicked in and reviewers who mocked them began to praise them and are now a staple within shoegaze that isn't My Bloody Valentine. Furthermore, Souvlaki is now sometimes considered to be just as good, if not better than Loveless.
  • The Cameo: Brian Eno adds keyboards and treatments to "Sing" and "Here She Comes" on Souvlaki.
  • Cover Version: "Some Velvet Morning" by Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra was added as a bonus track to the USA version of Souvlaki (one of the few good things SBK Records did) and came out on a separate EP in the UK. "Golden Hair" by Syd Barrett was part of a Peel Session and later bundled with the remastered two-disc edition of Just for a Day.
  • Dream Pop: Dream Pop and Shoegazing go hand-in-hand, but they're unanimously considered one of the dreamiest bands in the latter genre.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Having spent much of their existence receiving lukewarm reviews and being treated as a scapegoat by the press, their reunion in The New '10s was greeted with a glowing reception.
  • Echoing Acoustics: They used this a lot, bringing their sound closer to the middle between Dream Pop and Shoegazing.
    • Averted in "andalucia plays," where Halstead's vocals show up front and center without any treatment.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The first vocals on "Avalyn I" show up some 100 seconds in. "Slomo" and "Falling Ashes" are pretty much instrumentals until the second minute.
  • Epic Rocking:
    • Just for a Day: "Spanish Air." "Avalyn" and "Golden Hair" are played extended live.
    • Outside Your Room EP: "Moussaka Chaos"
    • Pygmalion: "Rutti", "Crazy for You", "Trellisaze", "J's Heaven", "Blue Skied an' Clear"
    • Slowdive (2017): "Slomo", "Go Get It", "Falling Ashes", "30th June"
    • everything is alive: "andalucia plays," "chained to a cloud"
  • Face on the Cover: The cover of Souvlaki is just a picture of the band.
  • Grief Song: Played with; while everything is alive is dedicated to Goswell's mother and Scott's father who both died in 2020, the band decided for a brighter sound.
  • I Am the Band: Pygmalion is more of a Neil Halstead solo album, by his own admission.invoked
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: A lot of lyrics websites get their lyrics wrong, thanks to the Echoing Acoustics.
  • Instrumental:
    • "Avalyn II" is basically "Avalyn I" without lyrics and twice as long. "Moussaka Chaos" is an instrumental version of "Souvlaki Space Station."
    • Half of their 5 EP is composed of electronic instrumentals.
    • "Prayer Remembered" is a mellow instrumental.
  • Irony: Simon Scott left the band during the recording of Pygmalion, mainly because of the more ambient direction it took. Nowadays, it's the primary type of music he makes in his solo career. Neil Halstead even said in a Pitchfork interview that "he still says that's the record he wished he was involved with, because that's more of where he's at musically these days." This is clearly evident with the largely electronic percussion in their post-reunion material.
  • Lampshade Hanging: The title of Holding Our Breath is a reference to the critical pasting they expected (and received) after Loveless prompted some Hype Backlash from critics. Their work has since been Vindicated by History.invoked
  • Looped Lyrics: Of the single-sentence variety, we have "Crazy for You", where Neil repeats "crazy for loving you" for five minutes (the last two syllables are practically inaudible.) When played live, he and Rachel sing it as "crazy for love, for love, for love."
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover for Slowdive; its just a very sparse black-and-white photo.
  • New Sound Album:
    • 5 resembles nothing the band put out before or since, but foreshadows their turn towards the electronic with Pygmalion two years later.
    • Souvlaki is notably brighter-sounding and dynamic than Just for a Day, whilst Pygmalion ditched shoegaze altogether for Post-Rock and Ambient territory.
    • The 2017 self-titled album provides a happy medium between the styles of the previous three records.
    • everything is alive goes for a sparser sound that resembles a lusher Pygmalion, trading their wall of guitars for arpeggiated notes and electronics.
  • One-Woman Song: "Alison"
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Just like Ride, Lush, Catherine Wheel, The Boo Radleys, Kitchens of Distinction and Pale Saints were by My Bloody Valentine.
  • Scatting: Rachel does this at the end of the live versions of "Slomo".
  • Shoegazing: One of the best-known bands in this genre.
  • Self-Titled Album: They have two, their debut EP which dates back to 1990 (which has a Title Track that makes you wonder if the entire record crosses into In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It territory) and the 2017 LP.
  • Shout-Out: Souvlaki was named after a Jerky Boys sketch where a main character claims that his wife will "suck your cock like souvlaki".
  • Titled After the Song: Rachel Goswell suggested naming the band after a Siouxsie and the Banshees song.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Par for the course for shoegazing.
  • Working with the Ex: See Better as Friends above.