Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, Simon Scott, Christian Savill, Nick Chaplin
New Musical Express 5/10/1991
"IS ANYONE feeling kind tonight?" asks Rachel Goswell, her hair the colour of conkers, as she coyly shakes her tambourine, and leads the Reading branch of the Triumph Spitfire owners' club into the eponymous 'Slowdive'. On the (self-satisfied) face of it, Slowdive would not appear to be a band unduly concerned with how anyone else was feeling, tonight or any other night. Their recent interviews, giving the impression of spoilt Home Counties kids with less appreciation of 'real life' than David Icke, have invited criticism quicker than you can look up 'incandescent' in the dictionary. And tonight's insular performance does little to dispel that swelling image.
Slowdive's drowsy networks of sound, delicate as petrified cobwebs, are delivered with a tundra-proportioned coll that frezes any emotional warmth in the songs as surely as if they'd been dipped in dry ice. Rachel, looking like a coquettish Clare Grogan, but as aloof and untouchable as Greta Garbo, has a voice that melts over the shivering guitars, but frequently becomes lost amongst them, as she sounds exactly like the wispier notes of Neil Halstead's guitar.
Unfortunately, Halstead's mellow murmur is uncannily similar in tone to Ms Goswell's, depriving the 'Dive of a sorely needed opportunity to inflame their work with a healthy dose of internal dynamics.
Like Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Slowdive are very much a band of two halves. While Neil and rachel perfect their studied langour at the front of the stage, the three blokes behind them chew gum, adopt frisky rock poses, and yes - they actually DO study their footwear, but only when they play the fast bits.
Each and every movement that Halstead makes, from respectfully striking his guitar to adjusting his Roger McGuinn fringe, is dlowed down to the pace of an arthritic snail queuing outside the GUM department store. The Slowdive rock'n'roll experience is not too far removed from viewing an Open University quantum mechanics lecture in slow motion. But this wanton lethargy, scored by the languid sweep of the occasionally beautiful music, is strangely compelling.
Even stranger is the effect on the crowd. At home, Slowdive's Cocteau/MBV flavoured dreamscapes are custom-built soundtracks for doing nothing very much, very slowly. But here in Leeds, the young crowd see this as a command to switch to mosh frenzy mode, more akin to spending an evening with Guns N' Roses, than with the frightfully demure Slowdive.
Perhaps sharing more territory with those appaling Cranes than the usual mandatory Moose/Chapterhouse comparisons suggest, Slowdive are more 'experimenters-of-sound' than mere 'purveyors-of-songs'. The final piece of the set, 'Avalyn', especially, was the breath-stealing rush of a chill gale whistling through a broken Cathedral door - a kind of 'Cranes with a proper singer'.
Constantly honing and refining, Slowdive are engrossed in a relentless search for a moment of pure perfection, narrowly missing it on the rather fine 'Morningrise', and sailing within earshot as Neil and Rachel float through 'The Ballad Of Sister Sue'. They operate within eye-wateringly tight parameters, approaching similar sound structures over and again from different perspectives. Their music is a microcosm where avalanches of crystalline guitar are engaged in perpetual pursuit of slumbering vocals, doomed to play out ceaseless variations on the same theme, seemingly forever.
Slowdive are not so much on the cutting edge, as on a glistening pinpoint.
This piece, entitled 'Perverted By Languid' appeared in the October 5 1991 issue of New Musical Express. The reviewer was Jonny Thatcher.
Computerised for 'Slowdive - A New Dream' by Darren (MusicManic).
Catch other elements of sonic sophistication at my main site: Darren's Sofa of Transience.