Why you should consider the band’s fifth album a comeback
Although it qualifies as only their fifth album in more than 30 years, Slowdive’s new offering, everything is alive, could be considered a comeback of sorts.
Given that they initially disbanded in 1995, shortly after the release of their third LP, Pygmalion, it marks a new chapter in a trajectory that remained idle for some 22 years, at least until they reconvened to record 2017’s self-titled return. The line-up is still the same — with Rachel Goswell on vocals, Neil Halstead on guitar, keys, ProTools, vocals and the songwriting, guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin and drummer Simon Scott.
Despite the passage of several decades, their trademark shoegaze sound remains emphatic and intact, a somewhat significant development considering the fact that the band’s primary offshoot, Mojave 3, leaned more towards a progressive folk-like stance. That’s not to say there’s not a contemplative quality to the new music.
Album: everything is alive
Label: Dead Oceans
★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars)
The meditative musings of a song such as “Prayer Remembered,” the hushed happenstance of “Andalucia Plays” and the soothing sounds of “Skin in the Game” all offer the aural equivalent of a baited breath, much akin to emo mood music with a fair amount of some hypnotic inducement. Then again, the fact that the album is dedicated to Goswell’s mother and Scott’s father, both of whom passed in 2020, it’s little surprise to find that subdued sensibility.
That’s not to say everything is alive can be considered any sort of elegiac offering, especially in its entirety. The comparisons to Pink Floyd remain intact, especially given the cosmic cacophony shared in the eerie atmospherics of “Shanty” and the celestial sweep of songs s such as “Kisses” and “Alife.” The pulsating pulse of “Chained To A Cloud” and the kinetic pace. Of “The Stab” suggest Slowdive — its handle aside — is still operating at full throttle.
Mostly though, everything is alive is best considered a series of aural soundscapes, interspersed with occasional incidental vocals and a decidedly demonstrative drive and deliberation. There are times when even the mellowest moments gradually build into a sound that’s both commanding and compelling. Like Pink Floyd, especially early on, their sights seem fixed on otherworldly realms, with interstellar overdrive an assured method of delivering them to their destination.
Of course, given the fact that the band has been absent of late, any impression will likely originate from a less than familiar point of view. At this point in their career, Slowdive’s on-again, off-again status might indicate that the familiarity factor isn’t something they can bank on. So too, the seamless shift in style — even within the framework of a single song — demands the listener’s absolute indulgence and concerted attention from beginning to end. Ready hooks and catchy choruses are nowhere to be found. Rather, it represents the absolute essence of ethereal ambiance and atmospherics, a trance-like diversion that’s obviously out to elevate an encounter to a much higher plane. And notably, that’s with any psychedelics aside.
If everything is alive as the title suggests, then it’s that seemingly effortless intent that provides the lifeblood that flows through their firmament. So too, the dreamy desire keeps it all intact.