October 10, 2009

Slowdive – Just For A Day (Remastered & Expanded) (1991/2005, Castle Music)

I have been a long-time fan of the shoegaze genre since I first heard My Bloody Valentine, along with “dream pop” music pioneered by gothic-tinged artists on the 4AD label like Cocteau Twins, in the early-mid '90s, but I have to admit I totally missed Slowdive during their active career. In '03, I found two of their CDs, “Souvlaki” and “Pygmalion,” in the cheapo used bin at Amoeba Records in Berkeley, and was instantly in love with their sound. Blending the aforementioned MBV's distorted guitar sound and alt-rock sensibility, reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins to my ears, with Cocteau Twin's ethereal vocal soundscapes and dreamy rhythms, Slowdive produced three albums of some of the most pleasant, abstract pop music of the '90s. I think the '94 CD “Souvlaki” may have been the band's most popular release, with a darker, melancholic tinge and more perceptible, song-form lyrics, while the following year's “Pygmalion” was apparently regarded as a “let down”, seeing the band exploring more electronic, minimalist and experimental territory, which I actually really enjoyed. Still, my favorite album has to be their first CD from '91, “Just For A Day”, which was reissued in '05, remastered with a second CD full of their first EPs and a '91 Peel Session. The sound is soothing and hum-able, with catchy melodic hooks and a steady, reverb-laden drumbeat, spacey synthesizer pads, endless layers of guitar drones and blissed-out vocal harmonies. I hadn't encountered Slowdive's EPs before the reissues, but they are all just as high-quality as the album tracks, with the epic two-part “Avalyn” and the sublime “Shine” standing out as intense and beautiful highlights. “Souvlaki” and “Pygmalion” were also both remastered and reissued in '05, with another bonus CD included with “Souvlaki” compiling the rest of the band's EPs. All three albums are absolute classics of '90s shoegaze!