Discovering new, up-and-coming bands is all well and good, but what about the cult bands of yesteryear that never got a mainstream audience?
We’re here to bring you some of our favourite, lesser known bands from the past which we feel deserve to be championed.
This week it’s the turn of Slowdive, who are currently in the midst of celebrating the 25th anniversaries of a wealth of early EPs.
To mark their Morningrise EP turning 25 last week, here’s an introduction to this amazing band.
Slowdive are one of the “big three” shoegaze bands (along with My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver), formed in Reading in 1989 after Neil Halsted and Rachel Goswell’s Sunday youth group band The Pumpkin Fairies came to an end.
The pair had been friends since childhood and recruited Nick Chaplin on bass and Christian Savill on guitar. Several drummers briefly played with the band, until Simon Scott became a full time member after the release of their debut album Just For A Day in 1991.
The band were initially influenced by post-punk groups like The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, but their sound became more akin to My Bloody Valentine after attempts to replicate their sound. As primary songwriter, Halstead stated that Slowdive wanted “to create something big and beautiful and sort of timeless”.
Named after an explicit Jerkey Boys skit, 1993’s Souvlaki marked the moment extraneous influences entered the fray and elevated the Reading five-piece beyond “just another” shoegaze band.
Neil Halstead was writing more and more material alone following a break up with fellow band member Rachel Goswell, a practise which was previously completed by the whole band, and brought in a lot of new sounds as a result.
‘Souvlaki Space Station’ is carried along on a dub-influenced bass line, and even has hints of Aphex Twin’s electronica to its recipe, while tracks like ‘Sing’ and ‘Here She Comes’ brings an early, ambient trip-hop vibe, helped in part by Halstead’s brief recording sessions with Brian Eno.
It’s gone on to be considered their defining moment, but reviews at the time were less kind. A music press infatuated with the oncoming Britpop train deemed shoegaze a thing of the past, and Melody Maker’s Dave Simpson famously said of the record: “‘Sing’ aside, I would rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge than ever listen to it again.”
Retrospective reviews have gone easier, with Allmusic’s Jack Rabid describing the album as “…quiet, moving, and aggressive simultaneously, mixing trance-like beauty with the deepest delayed guitar sounds around, a sound at once relaxing, soothing, and exciting, and most of all harshly beautiful.”
3 Defining Tracks
‘When The Sun Hits’
Perhaps the most quintessential Slowdive song of the lot, ‘When The Sun Hits’ won’t win any awards for innovation, but when the band’s glorious guitar rush peaks through the clouds of the verses, the euphoria is palpable.
An early single from Slowdive’s 1991 Morningrise EP, for many this track was an introduction the band’s spacious shoegaze.
Souvlaki‘s closing track stands in stark, acoustic contrast to the rest of Slowdive’s fizzingly electric product. It’s unsubtley influenced by Halstead and Goswell’s pre-album break-up – and it shows in the dour tone.
How It Ended
After Souvlaki, Slowdive would veer from their shoegaze sounds and head in the direction of the ambient post-rock of 1995’s Pygmalion. A week after that record’s release, they would be dropped from Creation Records (who were pooling all of their resources into an Oasis going supernovae), and three of Slowdive would go on to form Mojave 3, a country-influence act signed to 4AD.
Halstead and Goswell also recorded solo albums for 4AD in the years following, but a Slowdive reunion came about in 2014 with multiple festival appearances and worldwide tour dates.
Word from the Slowdive camp has been quiet as of late, though the band are confirmed for a handful of North American festivals this summer. And don’t be surprised to see them on a few British bills too.
Also, Goswell has just announced that she’s involved in Minor Victories, a side-project also featuring Editors’ Justin Lockey, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite and James Lockey of Hand Held Cine Club.
Who They Influenced
Countless atmospheric guitar bands, shoegaze acts, and ‘nu-gazers’.
Everything from the post-rock of Mogwai (above) to the derivative skree of Whirr, to the Stateside cool of bands like Crocodiles will have been filtered through the Reading outfit at some point.