slowdive – everything is alive

I saw slowdive this week.  This is another band I’ve had a near lifelong relationship with but have not had the opportunity to see live until now.  The lengthy space between albums, their English/Wales home fronts and their growing age led me to believe I may never see them.  However, last year they released everything is alive.  It was one of my favorite albums of the year and earned the band much ado praise and a multi generational audience that has them now amidst a world tour.

I am a slowdive completist but will try to focus solely on this album.  I think it’s important to know that the band are viewed as Shoegaze pioneers (especially for me as I’ve never been able to get into My Bloody Valentine) but were critically panned at the beginning of their careers.  History’s view of the band has completely changed over the course of slowdive’s work.  They have persevered and continue to thrive musically and now critically.  Slowdive is a family but not in the nuclear sense.  They have been making music together since the late 80’s.  Primary songwriter Neil Halstead and the incredible Rachel Goswell dated for many years in their youth.  The two would break up and have other bands but still keep making slowdive albums.  Goswell got married and had a child with severe health problems.  He is deaf and has had several open heart surgeries and will have many more over the course of his life.  But her son has persevered. Goswell lost her mother during Covid.  There were only 20 people at the funeral due to the restrictions of that time.  Neil Halstead was one of the 20.  Time passes, all of us go through different stages in our lives, every relationship we possess changes.  But how we adapt to those changes is what truly matters.  That’s what gives family its true quality.  Health, love, suffering, joy….these are the progressions of life.  But in the end, what matters most is who we identify to be family and what these relationships mean to us over the course of our lives.  These aren’t my thoughts alone.  This is just a distillation of what I have learned.  

Everything is alive is a slight departure from their other albums.  There is a heavier synth presence which hits you immediately as the album (and the concert) opens with “scanty.”  The perfect amuse bouche.  The signature warmth and atmosphere is evident.  The album seems to tackle more personal matters.  While every slowdive album is very emotional, this album puts us face to face with mortality.  I find “alife” to be the centerpiece of the album (and their not playing it was a difficult Pill to swallow).  “Don’t look, don’t look at me now/ Time has got me somehow”  Yeesh. What a Dagger.  Halstead is an extremely enigmatic songwriter and you have to really work hard to hear and understand his lyrics given all the guitars and ubiquitous delay peddles combined with the way the vocals are mixed.  But it’s worth it. “Kisses” is the lead single and a worthy one but “skin in the game” may be the deepest, most cathartic track on the album. Then again, that’s coming from someone who loathes asymmetry. I relate to this album naturally as I do at baseline with all their others.

From this album, slowdive played “shanty” “skin in the game” “chained to a cloud” and “kisses.” Sadly, no “alife” or “the slab.”  The show was sold out.  Huge rarity in New Orleans, especially on a Tuesday.  I got blocked out on the floor by noxious but not obnoxious youths and had to relocate a few times.  The Civic is a difficult place to see a show if you’re not in the floor bowl because of the way the sound travels through the room.  Slowdive is a band you need to hear and feel all of the sound because it is so layered and textured (and the way Goswell uses her vocals as instruments with pedal use is very cool).  So I went upstairs to the top of the balcony and sat against the wall in the second set and I could hear and feel everything.  Everything was alive. While he doesn’t communicate much with the crowd or gesticulate much, I was mesmerized by Halstead.  It was everything I wanted the show to be.

Family heirlooms are just keepsakes of some kind of personal significance.  They are connectors of how far we have come and our education along the way.  These heirlooms aren’t all physical, albeit, this record will be an object for you.  But there is so much emotion and perspective.  “Psychological heirlooms” is what they call that I believe.  I hope this album will be both kinds of heirloom for you.  It is ethereal, mercurial magic.  Persevere.  You must persevere.  

PS: I don’t watch many movies but this week I also randomly watched Interstellar.  Combine that with a large healing of slowdive and being a father to one child, a daughter at that, well, that is a powerful equation.  Really makes you wonder about the pull and power of our universe.

Favorite Tracks: “shanty” “alive” “kisses” “skin in the game” “the slab”

Pressing: Dead Oceans. DOC232.  Crystal Clear.  Original Pressing.  2023