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13th April 1991 London, The Venue


Line up: 

Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, Simon Scott, Christian Savill, Nick Chaplin


Spanish Air
Catch The Breeze
She Calls
Ballad Of Sister Sue

Support acts: 

Beautiful Happiness, Revolver


The Venue, London

The two exhibitionists trying their hardest to freak out towards the front haven't really got the right idea. Slowdive are hardly an inducement to start jumping into people - quite the opposite, in fact. They're incapacitating. An ideal position in which to listen to them would be lying flat on a bed, holding a white lily across your chest while a priest administers the last rites. Slowdive are deathly. So hush, pay a little respect.

Seeing them live on stage isn't the ideal setting, anyway. It's a little difficult to start drifting off when you keep bumping into the person next to you, and they're not exactly captivating visually. Some bands, like Spacemen 3, can barely move a muscle throughout a gig and still hold your attention, but Slowdive don't have that air of charismatic concentration. I can't tell whether it seems as if their actually being there is incidental to the music or vice-versa. Appearances do matter, and personally I'm getting a little tired of this non-commital eyes-to-the-ceiling/"I'm so fragile" approach that so many of you find sexy. It's too easy. All the truly memorable bands look as if they're giving it their all, as if the performance is taking something out of them.

It's not as if Slowdive don't have a heck of a lot going for them, but if we're going to proffer them the torch to carry us all further forward into this decade, I want a little more indication of where they're able to go. Right now, the possibilities seem limited. For a start, as lovely as it often is, they only have one song. You already know it; the ssunken half-sullen half-wistful vocals, the undulating wash of guitars slowly draining away, and that glow, like an emerald turning incandescent in answer to a rediscovered password, lighting the way once more to your own secret garden.

By rights, they shouldn't have individual tracks, they should have movements ("Part One: The Dream Begins", "Part Two: The Dream Continues In Very Much The Same Vein" etc). Strangely, a fairly slight change can often make a great deal of difference. At their most enchanting, such as "She Calls" or the aptly-titled "Losing Today", their reveries sound nostalgic in the best sense of the word; not looking back in order to reclaim a gratifying foundation of antiquated values, but looking back in order to lose your foundation, to retreat further back into a past that's pre-you.

Like the characters in a Paul Auster novel, Slowdive answer a calling that asks them to cast off the personal effects that blind them to the here and now, the trappings against which they measure themselves like cogs in the machine. But they only go so far. They don't take you close enough. The morose "Avalon" shows up all their weaknesses more than most. Again the title is exemplary (a never-never land, a search to take you out of time and identity), but it doesn't go anywhere, just rises and falls without any sense of progression. What's lacking is the pull of awe. Slowdive show little compulsion to make that sacrifice, to allow themselves that triumphant loss.

Don't start falling at their feet just now. They've yet to find the way to go.

Written by Johnathan Selzer in Melody Maker (April 20, 1991)
Computerised for Slowdive - A New Dream by Darren (MusicManic)

The Venue, London

LIKE CHAPTERHOUSE, like Moose, like whoever with a penchant for lazy, effects-mangled guitars, Slowdive aren't so much static on stage as terrifyingly inert. Communication is monosyllabilic at it's most conversational. Shaking a tambourine constitutes riotous behaviour. Anything like sneezing would probably unbalance the entire equilibrium of Slowdive's live environment.

They remind me of a newspaper article which, commenting on a change of exhibits at London Zoo, said that the newly-installed koala bears made the recently-departed panda look like a 100 metre olympic sprint champion by comparison. These people need some fresh air and a vicious vitamin course.

The again, naturellement, Slowdive's music hardly encourages cartwheels across the boards. They start slowly, they finish at the same pace. To all intents and purposes, the set consists of taking all of The Kitchens of Distinction's sparking, sonic bits and stretching them out to sloth-like velocity. Fortunately, believe you and me, this is a fabulous thing.

By the time the opener, 'Shine', reaches halfway point Slowdive are home and dry in entertainment alone: immersed in a beatific swirl of soaring guitars and suspended whispers which re-defines the word tranquil, they're lost in limbo, tempting comments about cerebral impulses and other biological mysteries I know bugger all about.

That they rarely manage to subsequently scale such peaks hardly seems to matter. That, to the passing ear at least, 'Avalyn' and 'Slowdive' are distinguishable only by the latter's minutely wilder inclinations matters even less. Rather than churn out hook and toy with potentially unhappy opposites, Slowdive lend themselves to artistic experimentation, creating a warming flow, a sonic stream which makes Julee Cruise resemble Giant haystacks in the ethereal department.

Thereby appoint vacant front-murmurers Neail and Rachel The Carpenters for the '90s, and applaud the slippery, syrupy sweetness of the Slowdive sound. Yeah, just like honey.


This piece, entitled 'Another Fine Mesmerise' appeared in the April 20 1991 issue of New Musical Express. The reviewer was Simon Williams.
Computerised for Slowdive - A New Dream by Darren (MusicManic)