I believe it was Clint Conley of Mission Of Burma who once said that selling tickets on a reunion tour is easy; the hard part is selling them on the next tour. As Burma themselves have shown, one sound strategy is to roll up the sleeves and create some new work that stands shoulder to shoulder with their legacy. Slowdive has taken a similar approach, using the downtime from their re-emergence in 2014 to sit down and craft a record that doesn’t feel out of place next to Souvlaki or the various brilliant EPs from twenty-odd years ago. The self-titled record, released this year, shows the band in full command of their abilities and they once again played to a sold out room.
One of the secrets to their success is that, as shoegaze bands go, they are more interested in the backbone of the song than all the swirly bits that hang around it. Sure, bands like My Bloody Valentine or Ride could make a song that had a strong melody (eg “When You Sleep,” “Seagull”) but those songs wouldn’t sound nearly as good simply played with a Martin D-28 and a voice or two. Co-leaders Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell showed this to good effect in the relatively stripped down post-Slowdive band Mojave 3, but those elements were always present in their previous band.
Songs like “Star Roving” or “Sugar For The Pill” showcase Halstead’s sweet, understated vocals that carry the song along to the plangent tones of Christian Savill, which gradually form into a swell like a chorus of angels in syrup, raining down over the room. Earlier material such as “Slowdive” or “Avalyn” still hit the mark, Savill’s bending strings cascading beauty amidst the insistent rhythm section of Nick Chaplin and Simon Scott. That string-bending would reappear on perhaps the band’s most beloved song, the languidly brilliant “Alison,” Goswell’s heavenly harmonies lifting everyone in the room to a higher plane.
The custom lighting that Slowdive brought along (they also provided their own sound and light desks and placed them under the balcony, making the usually cramped Paradise floor even more sardine-like) brilliant matched their songs, mixing projected geometric images onto the band and occasionally blasting out immense amounts of lumens in a strobe-like fashion. Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair” as originally presented is a curious little song, but in Slowdive’s hands they gradually pull and pull it from its initial form, into something Barrett never imagined, a triumphant ending from a tentative beginning. Welcome back.
Cherry Glazerr were a fun, brash way to open the show. It’s a credit to the booking agent that another sound-alike band wasn’t enlisted, and instead of gauzy pop they delivered a snap-neck version of garage rock, done with an unwavering intensity. It’s not too surprising to find their roots were planted via the Burger Records label, and their move to Secretly Canadian augurs well for their profile to keep on rising.
Photos of both bands here: