Bunny Schaaf | Staff Writer
“everything is alive” is shoegaze powerhouse Slowdive’s first release in nearly a decade, following their self-titled album that – despite success – received a mixed reaction by fans of the genre.
Slowdive emerged in the early 1990s as shoegaze crept onto the musical scene, bleeding over from the decade prior, and the band certainly aided in defining the genre. The term “shoegaze” even originated from a commentary of their concerts and musical style.
“We spent a lot of time looking down at our shoes, mostly because we used a lot of guitar pedals,” Neil Halstead, lead guitarist and vocalist, told Scott Simon in an interview with NPR.
“There was this – this phrase was sort of coined in the early ’90s by a journalist from the ‘Melody Maker,’ which is a British music magazine.”
Despite this influence, they are cursed by the success of their second album, “Souvlaki.”
“Souvlaki,” a momentous work that is now considered a collection must-have for alternative record collectors and one of the most popular modern shoegaze albums, set the standard for what the genre has become today. It has given Slowdive significant responsibility in the eyes (and ears) of listeners.
“everything is alive” retains their sound, but takes a nuanced change in direction that shows potential for greater works in the future, a stepping stone to a reimagined shoegaze culture.
The album opens with “shanty,” a nearly 6-minute-long intro track that is far more electronic in nature than Slowdive songs of the past. While still decidedly shoegaze, this is a theme that the entire album will maintain.
Where there used to be fuzzy chords and distortion, there are synthesizers and vocal effects. That’s not to say that the charm of older works is lost on this album – those shoegaze staples still remain.
“[Electronic music] is certainly where my head’s at these days,” Halstead said in an interview with GRAMMY.com about the creative process for the new release. “[everything is alive] was really enjoyable because it kind of brought those electronic things into Slowdive world as well.”
The following tracks take a return to the dreamier hallmark set forth by Slowdive throughout their career, but the synths and electronic inspiration are persistent.
This isn’t all bad, as the sound is still cohesive and the album blends together well so far. The songs are not indistinguishable from one another, yet they certainly belong together in tone and style.
“prayer remembered,” “alife” and “andalucia plays” are tracks on the first half of the album that bring spiritualistic tones to palpable light in their lyricism and choral inspired intonations, something not so explicitly or commonly associated with Slowdive in the past.
The sound takes a darker turn as the track list progresses, most notably with “the slab” and “skin in the game.” The pace slows and the backtracks are deeper and full of resonance. These tracks reflect more of the core of Slowdive – the hopeful yet hopeless tone of shoegaze that they helped define, carried by arpeggios and ghostly vocals.
This shift is fitting, as the band was plagued with strife after their reunion in 2014 and the release of their self-titled album in 2017. Some of the hardships were personal.
“My mum[‘s death] wasn’t due to Covid. She’d been poorly for a few years with Lewy body dementia and was in a care home, so I wasn’t able to see her for the last three months of her life due to Covid. I’m still dealing with it really,” said Rachel Goswell, one of the guitarists and vocalists for Slowdive, in Billboard. “Simon’s father passed quite early on into Covid.”
“kisses” and “skin in the game” were two of the singles released in anticipation of the album and remain two of the most popular tracks to come from the band’s return. They both maintain significantly better lyricism than the other tracks present, and the elements of electronic and shoegaze genres blend quite seamlessly rather than starkly.
“kisses,” in particular, was a long endeavor for this album, taking over two years to finalize, according to Goswell. Their efforts shine through in this final iteration, which is perhaps the standout on the LP.
“everything is alive” is a successful return by Slowdive, and while not as momentous as their earlier releases, shows a promising and musically fluent change in direction that still pays homage to the origin of the genre and the band alike.
“If you’ve got any idea about how the band sounds, you’d think it was pretty Slowdive-y,” Halstead said of the album in an interview with MOJO.