Slowdive opens with a demand: “Give me your love.” This forcefulness at the beginning of the album seems fitting for the group’s self-titled release, considering it’s their first one in 22 years. Such an extended absence from the music scene warrants a strong plea for admiration and attention – and a listen to the record shows it is well-deserved. It successfully brings Slowdive back to the forefront of the shoegaze scene with instrumentality and craftsmanship that is aesthetically muddied, yet sleek and spacious.
Throughout the record, soft synths dominate the background stereo image. The drums remain at a low volume in the mix, emphasizing the album’s focus on utilizing ambient elements to compose a huge-sounding background rather than playing up any rhythmic structures. Distorted leads pierce through this foundation of sound to complete the instrumental arrangement. This method of arrangement is present throughout the album, but is best exemplified in the album’s second single, “Sugar for the Pill.” A lone delayed electric guitar establishes a slick chord progression in the beginning of the song before a silky, mid-heavy distorted lead guitar appears and plays in sync with the progression. These elements combine with a bass riff that is so, so groovy to set the pulse of the track and make it the most dynamic and fun on the record.
The opener, “Slomo,” sets a space-y vibe along with a casual, upbeat rhythm. The dreamy synths, paired with the looping and distorted guitar riff, could be the soundtrack for a flight through dark space. Goth-rock elements are apparent in “Star Roving,” where the vocals almost resemble Peter Murphy’s from Bauhaus, and the guitar riffs with reverb-heavy distortion and rhythmic strums sound akin to the guitars of Christian Death.
The album’s only weakness lies in the lyrics, which are neither particularly distinct or profound. As the vocals are usually lower in volume than the instruments and drenched in a heavy hall reverb, the words are muddled together and often indiscernible. However, of the actually audible lyrics, there are gems of honest simplicity. In “No Longer Making Time,” Neil Halstead croons: “Oh Lord I remember those days / And all those nights / When you wanted so much more.” This track directs the album toward a more reminiscent feel, that culminates in the album’s closing song, “Falling Ashes.” With a piano riff that repeats for the entirety of the track’s eight minutes and very minimal involvement from other instruments, it is a soft and circular ending to the record. Halstead incessantly repeats the phrase, “Thinking about love,” which characterizes the circular nature of both the track and mindset of the album: beginning and ending with the notion of love.
– Review by Francesca Pastore