Albums which earn the respected status of a ‘classic’ do so with the passage of a certain amount of time.
In the case of Slowdive’s second album Souvlaki, it’s an interesting example of a classic record that also acquired some much-deserved redemption as well.
When it was released in 1993, the UK music press was much too enamoured by the hype of grunge and Britpop that the slower, expansive, contemplative musical explorations of bands such as Slowdive fell out of favour.
In some circles it was lambasted and ridiculed, with one Melody Maker writer stating that he’d ‘rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge’ than listen to Souvlaki.
How time has turned the tide.
With the great success of their self-titled album of last year and their return to worldwide touring, longtime fans and new have turned to revisit the earlier Slowdive material. Souvlaki stands brightest amongst them. It is the record where the band found their footing and showed where their music could go.
Bands like Beach House, Deerhunter, DIIV and M83 have also been pivotal to the revival of interest in the unique textures, subdued moods and murky atmospheres of shoegaze and they in turn have influenced a new generation of artists.
“Slowdive is a band I continually keep coming back to, their music has a very comforting and calming effect on me,” America-based Australian dream-pop artist Hazel English told Happy last year.
“My favourite album of theirs, Souvlaki, is just one of those albums that, no matter how many times I listen to it, it still feels fresh and new to me. It really has stood the test of time. I know I really like a band when I listen to their music and it gets me in the mood to write a song.”
Gabriel Lewis from Melbourne trio Lowtide recalls hearing Icelandic band Mum covering ‘Machine Gun’ on Blue Skied An’ Clear, a Morr Records compilation dedicated entirely to Slowdive’s music.
Hearing that interpretation of the song prompted him to revisit Souvlaki, connecting strongly with its spaciousness and sparseness.
“It changed how I was thinking about things,” he tells Double J. “Sometimes you need to step back and pull things away and take it back to original ideas and that was an interesting thing to take on board from that album.”
Lewis thinks the album’s closer, one of many written songs about the breakup of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s relationship, demonstrated great creative courage.
“’Dagger’ is just like an acoustic song and vocals and that’s pretty much it, which is kinda a terrifying thing to do when you’re used to being drenched in reverb,” he says.
Being a bit of a sound hound, Lewis says he’s also hugely inspired by the way ’40 Days’ opens.
“It’s just like this stacked bunch of notes and the slight bend, there’s something really bawdy but strong about it,” he says. “There’s so much lightness but there’s also lots of lonely haunting parts like ‘Melon Yellow’. [The album] had such a dynamic range of song structures and production across all facets of it.”
And, being a guitarist, Lewis was particularly keen on Slowdive’s Christian Savill’s work.
“[He’s] amazing, how he can convert his guitar tone into something that does not sound like the guitar,” Lewis says. “That was a huge direction change for me. I just went down a massive rabbit hole of effects, and that’s never ended for me.”
There’s no better place to be as an artist than to know that your creative output has endured, and that younger artists are still discovering things in your music.
But Neil Halstead has a more practical explanation as to why his band’s music has found its way back into favour.
“[Shoegaze] bands were never big bands—they were always these little bands making underground music and then Britpop came,” he told Pitchfork last year.
“In England, that opened up the indie world to the mainstream world. But shoegaze never became part of the big music industry.
“So maybe it was ripe for rediscovery, in the same way that when those Nuggets collections and Pebbles compilations – the old garage rock and psych – were reissued in the ’80s, they became really influential. You’d never heard your parents playing those records—they were never mainstream music. But they were brilliant bands that got a second bite after they were re-released.
“Maybe the internet had a real good impact on shoegaze because it’s given kids now a chance to check it out.”