By Heather Burt, Second Year Politics and Economics
The tight hour-thirty set of their greatest hits, uniform across the tour, displays the group’s most beloved tracks for an intensely nostalgic crowd. The opening track Shanty, off their most recent album everything is alive, is one of only a couple recent songs
The lack of new material in the setlist is forgivable considering their album tour is already planned for 2024, but the cult worship of their earlier discography is evident. People had come for the iconic melodies and searing basslines of the early 90s, both their original fans “reliving the glory days” and the newer internet generation, the 2014 Tumblr kids to the recent TikTok stans. This is the unique appeal of Slowdive – the music evokes a bittersweet nostalgia, even for those that cannot be nostalgic for them.
A first at any music event, there was no queue for the womens’. The crowd skewed heavily male, especially amongst the elders, who turned out in full force for the remaster of the sounds of their youth. Part of the emotional capsule of Slowdive is the cult of desire for frontwoman Rachel Goswell. A striking symbol onstage – a bright red dress, blocked two-tone hair, the heckling and shouts of “Marry me Rachel!” – the tender, bittersweet history of her relationship with bandmate Neil only compounds this mythology. Part of Slowdive’s appeal is the insular, emotionally masochistic cocoon of the music, songs to play when you’re sad to make it worse.
Slowdive, and the genre of shoegaze in general, has recently gained a reputation related to its “inceldom”; whilst mostly comedic, there is an intrinsic association in the music to the inaccessibility of traditional sensuality. Outsiders to the emotional lives of “normal” people, tender young romantics reject an unfeeling picture of masculinity to engage with the group’s other-worldly, reverberating sound. Not to say that this is a negative; the love-lost lore beckons to tender-hearted and fragile girls similarly. The adolescent nature – not in a derogatory sense – of the aching, yearning tracks in their iconic early albums evokes a specific mood in the listener, returning them to the transience of youth and its emotional rollercoasters.
Stylish and loud as always, the sound system at SWX blew it out the water. True to track, although not perhaps to life, the dreamy vocals almost drowned beneath the roaring drums, the crowd matching every word. How could you fail in a room full of fans? Lined wall to wall, gripping onto the balconies, transfixed from behind the bar, completed with beat-synced strobes and the venue’s ethereal blue glow, all faces were enamoured with their onstage idols – there was hardly a phone in the air.
Again, the shoe-gazing nature of shoegaze was Slowdive’s popular failure – slated by the music media in the age of riotous Britpop and sleazy grunge rock, the incestuous music scene tugged at each other’s heartstrings, a community undivided into musicians and their fans. But none of this is self-indulgent – the star power of Slowdive is their emotion, the intensity of their tenderness. The atmospheric bubble cultivated by the sound, aesthetics, and mythology is what Slowdive is about; the music is simply a vector, and the group’s reunion is both exciting and emotional for their community.
Featured Image: Benji Chapman
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