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Slowdive Restores Its Shoegaze Glory On Synth Heavy ‘Everything Is Alive’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

[Glide Magazine]

By Joey Willis

The seminal shoegaze band, Slowdive, formed in Reading, England in 1989 and played a pivotal role in shaping the shoegaze genre. Like many other bands that were their peers (My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush) and those that came after (DIIV, the Horrors, A Place to Bury Strangers) Slowdive’s albums are characterized by intricately layer guitars, hushed vocals by Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell and a penchant for sonic experimentation.

Their debut album, Just for a Day, introduced the world to their immersive sound, but it was their follow-up, Souvlaki, that solidified their status as luminaries of the genre. With tracks like “Alison” and “Dagger,” Slowdive struck a chord with listeners, offering a sublime auditory experience that wraps itself around the listener like a comforting, melancholic embrace. After the release of their third album, Pygmalion, Slowdive disbanded in 1995 and Halstead and Goswell joined forces with Chapterhouse guitarist Simon Rowe to create the excellent, yet underrated, Mojave 3. It wasn’t until 2014 that Slowdive reunited and finally released their first new album in 2017. After years of touring, Slowdive is finally releasing their fifth studio album, Everything is Alive.

As “Shanty” fades in, the listener is transported to the “upside down” and dark synths play in the style SURVIVE uses on Stranger Things. At about the minute mark, distorted guitar strums cut in and then the familiar reverb guitars take the forefront as the synths continue in the background. “Shanty” is a real “kick to the head” intro song that really starts the album out on a strong note. The follow-up is an excellent instrumental piece called “Prayer Remembered” which is just an unmistakable downtempo Slowdive song with intricate guitar layers and reverb drums. The synth riff-heavy, “Alife” is complimented with the guitar riffs echoing the modular synth as vocal harmonies elevate the 80’s electronica feel to the next level. The sparse instrumentation on “Andalusia Plays” serves to give Halstead’s vocals centerstage (an anomaly in the shoegaze genre) as he sings lyrics like ‘The sun’s coming up / And I see you’re smiling…I dream like a butterfly / Perfect and temporary.’ The first song released online from the album is “Kisses,” an uptempo number in the vein of their single “Sugar for the Pill” off of their self-titled album.

“Skin in the Game” is probably the most standout track on an album filled with great songs. The skillful lazy reverb laden guitar riffs weave in and out of fuzzy distorted guitar and vocals and Halstead’s haunting vocals create the feeling of being in a dream. The album concludes with “The Slab,” as Simon Scott’s frantic, driving drum beat keeps tempo, echoing, layered guitars sway back and forth and Nick Chaplin perfectly places bass notes to accent the song. 

Though Slowdive could never be called prolific by any means, they instead use the time between albums to come up with new ideas and when they enter the studio, magic ensues. There aren’t many bands that have reunited (or stayed together) after such a long break and continued to make music that is just as good, or better, as their previous work. This seems to be a product of not being swayed by the newest musical trends and just doing what feels right. Though there isn’t too much difference in Everything is Alive, except the use of modular synths, Slowdive has created another masterpiece and shown why they are one of the most respected bands of the shoegaze genre.