Slowdive’s second act has been a thing to behold. After a brief chapter as flavour-of-the-month, the music press attempted to bury the shoegaze darlings, before label Creation dropped them. That, truthfully, should have been that. Yet in amongst this lies some of the most special, groundbreaking guitar music of their generation, with albums such as ‘Souvlaki’ becoming key touchstones for generations of pedal-bothering groups. Reforming to find a waiting audience, Slowdive shared a wonderful self-titled album in 2017, cementing their renewed place in the pantheon of 21st century shoegaze.
Taking time out to focus on solo projects and side hustles, Slowdive have coalesced once more to forge ‘everything is alive’. It’s an album with a real push-and-pull effect – it can move from crunching guitar tones to spacious, electronic-hewn landscapes the next, all while achieving a fundamental unity.
‘shanty’ is a potent sidestep. Indeed, the first notes on the album aren’t guitar at all – they’re synths. Transporting their methodologies into different spheres, it eventually comes together as a gripping, surging river of sound. ‘prayer remembered’ carries an evocative stillness, reminiscent of Sigur Ros at their emotive best.
‘alife’ picks up the pace, the clipped percussion reminiscent of those revelatory live shows. ‘andalucia plays’ somehow makes its spartan instrumentation feel orchestral in span, taking those measured elements to the furthest out extreme. A whispered incantation, it’s an emphatic mood piece.
In contrast, ‘kisses’ is all evocative jangle and neat vocals, a indie guitar pop song from some of the best to ever do it. ‘skin in the game’ seems to nod to the gothic tendencies of Interpol, say, or even The Cure, while the electronic arpeggios of ‘chained to a cloud’ are ruthlessly addictive.
Closing with the aptly named guitar chords that crush ‘the slab’, this is a wonderfully measured return. Refusing to simply echo the success of their 2017 self-titled effort, Slowdive have instead burst forwards for pastures new. At times experimental, it forever returns to their core values, with this tension supplying some of the album’s finest moments. Enchanting and illuminating, ‘everything is alive’ proves that Slowdive’s pulse is still beating strong.
Words: Robin Murray