Secret Meeting score: 84
by Joseph Purcell
It’s been twenty-two years since Slowdive last released a studio album and a further two years since their seminal album, Souvlaki earned them the status of shoegazers extraordinaire. It’s no surprise that, following a successful yet limited live return in 2014, many waited with bated breath to hear 2017’s self-titled return.
I was totally unaware of Slowdive the first time around – too caught up in ‘Britpop’ and the insults traded between Oasis and Blur. How I missed out – those shimmering guitars, mesmeric, lo-fi vocals and thundering production. The emergence of Star Roving – the first new material teased from the record – was my awakening to Slowdive and that wonderous, expansive sound. From the opening seconds, it floats on a crest of majestic guitar work with a soaring melody – it’s truly a thing of beauty. Gripped, I found myself encapsulated in the driving nature of the track, with the vocals of both Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell intertwining to stunning effect. This was a band reborn and free of the worries that had dragged them down more than two decades previously, typified by Halstead’s rallying cry- ‘Nothing left to lose, nothing left to fight’.
Opener, Slomo, fulfils and to my mind surpasses the standard set for it by the lead single. Starting delicately with a gorgeous shuffling beat, it grows into an astonishing piece of music, comforting the listener and allowing you to float away on an immaculate wave of happiness. As the track continues, Goswell joins Halstead’s vocal to bring the track to a level of near Cocteau Twins-esque genius, with their voices driving the song to its conclusion after six minutes and 53 seconds of perfection.
Sugar for the Pill is gentler. A soothing, simplistic number that’s carried by its chiming guitars and relaxed melodic phrasings. Other favourites include, Everyone Knows and No Longer Making Time, before Slowdive comes to its conclusion in the form of the mesmeric Falling Ashes – a haunting piece that evokes Mike Oldfield’s classic, Tubular Bells. And as the album fades to a close, the thick Scottish accent of Halstead refrains, encouraging us to ‘Think about love,’ leaving the listener to reflect on their own lives and experiences as the record reaches a fitting final chapter. A closing statement that provides the perfect ending to one of 2017’s unexpected musical highlights.