Along with other notable bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Chapterhouse, and Ride, Slowdive have come to be considered one of the defining bands of the 90s shoegaze movement. During their time together, they released three albums and split in 1995 after being dropped by their label, Creation Records. Three members went on to form Mojave 3, and for two decades that seemed to be the end of the Slowdive story. Rather than disappearing into obscurity, though, the legend of the band grew, and when they announced their reformation in 2014 they were met with far more excitement than even the band members might have imagined. After a highly successful run touring the world, the band regrouped last year to write new material. Those efforts finally came to fruition this month with the release of their fourth, self-titled album on Dead Oceans.
A new album by a band after twenty years away is often a dicey proposition, but Slowdive turned out to be the band’s strongest effort yet, combining the best elements of their earlier albums with the maturity that comes with all of the songwriting experience that the band’s members have gained since. So strong, in fact, that the band was able to open their sold-out show at the 9:30 Club two days after the record’s release with album opener “Slomo” and be met with all of the enthusiasm that might be expected for a classic track. The song, like the entire album, contains the elements that have come to be essential to the Slowdive sound, including the soaring, atmospheric guitars and the dual vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. Yet far from sounding like a dated rehash of ground already covered, it’s fresh and exciting.
But the show wasn’t all new material, and Slowdive went far back into their catalog next to play “Catch the Breeze” from their first album, 1991’s Just For a Day. “Crazy For You” from 1995’s Pygmalion followed, but the majority of the older tracks from the night came from the band’s best known album, 1993’s Souvlaki, including “Machine Gun,” “Souvlaki Space Station,” and “Alison.” The band reached as far back as their 1990 self-titled debut EP for “Avalyn,” and played two additional new songs – “Star Roving” and “Sugar For the Pill” – before closing their set out with their cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair.” The band returned for a three-song encore, including “Slowdive” (also off of the debut EP), one additional new track “No Longer Making Time,” and “40 Days” from Souvlaki.
Even if it came two decades later than they might have liked, it seems that Slowdive has finally found their time to shine. With the success of the tour and the album, we can only hope that this is merely the beginning of long chapter in the band’s history.
Japanese Breakfast, the project of Eugene, Oregon’s Michelle Zauner, opened the show. Her new album, Soft Sounds From Another Planet, is due to be released in July.