Souvlaki at 25: The Unsung Hero of the Nineties

It’s been 25 years since Thames Valley shoegazers, Slowdive, dropped their ground-breaking sophomore album; Souvlaki. Released by Creation records in the spring of 1993, the bittersweet and dreamlike masterpiece had mixed reactions from the music press upon its arrival. But its ethereal and cutting-edge sound has aged like fine wine, proving that Slowdive were very much ahead of their time during the early nineties. They paved the way for much of the millennial dream-pop existing today from the likes of Alvvays, Beach House, DIIV, and can even be credited as an inspiration to entirely new genres. Such as Deafheaven’s innovative spin on black metal which incorporates elements of shoegaze and ambient music, dubbed ‘blackgaze’.

Slowdive’s ongoing legacy as well as their apparent ability to bridge the generational gap, garnering a following of melancholic twenty-something’s arguably on a much bigger scale when compared to their fandom of the nineties, really is a testament to their music. Souvlaki is, in short, a sonic treasure. Its opener and true stand out track, Alison, is a beautiful ode to an old housemate of guitarist and vocalist Neil Halstead. The guitars soar and wash over the listener in a mesmerising and trance-like way, building and building until the chorus is met with a thrilling guitar lead.

Other moments on the record reach equally as bursting and climactic heights, When The Sun Hits is a live favourite for the band, an anthemic and spiralling odyssey of colossal drumming and euphoric singing. Though what set Slowdive apart from their shoegazing contemporaries at the time, and what provided Souvlaki with its heart-wrenching lyricism, is the break-up between band members Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead. Following the continuation of the band post-breakup, the tensions and emotions present between the two manifested themselves in ways that are strewn all across Souvlaki. Tracks like Here She Comes, 40 Days, Dagger and Machine Gun are painfully sad songs hinting at Goswell and Halstead’s fleeting feelings for one another. It is these glimpses of empathy and sorrow, encapsulated so accurately in Souvlaki, which fans have grown to love.

After discovering Slowdive’s beautiful and otherworldly music during my high school years at the age of 16, it opened up a Pandora’s Box of musical pathways. From Slowdive it led to the discovery of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Cocteau Twins, Chapterhouse, all the way through to post-rock bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Explosions in the Sky. Souvlaki is the spark that lit the flame for all of this and I am forever thankful. I was lucky enough to see Slowdive live at End of the Road festival in September of 2017, where they played a breath-taking show that is sure to be a lifelong memory, not only that but it was at this festival that I met some of the most cherished people in my life, further cementing Souvlaki as a record close to my heart. Slowdive are a band that deserves all the recognition they have in 2018 and more, as Alan McGee once said; “the good guys sometimes win… and they’ve won finally”.

– Words by Gavin Owen

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