Slowdive – Catch the Breeze

Slowdive
Catch the Breeze

Being a huge Slowdive fan, I’ve always thought that it got the short end of the stick in regards to the history of the shoegaze scene. Every time I pick up a magazine that has some article about the long defunct “scene that celebrates itself,” it never fails to mention how great My Bloody Valentine is (note: MBV’s Loveless is my favorite record of all time). Well, no shit. I can’t possibly imagine the landscape of rock without Loveless. No other band in that scene and no other band period can compare to it, at least for me. However, right after My Bloody Valentine, everyone always talks about Ride being the flagship band from that scene. Come on people, the only Ride record that is really shoegaze is Nowhere; after that Ride became a shitty Britpop band. Slowdive was the true originator of the style, foretelling a future ripe with Sigur Ros, Boards of Canada, M83, The Appleseed Cast, and Mogwai just to name a few.

For the uninitiated, Catch the Breeze is a career-spanning double-disc anthology encompassing a few early singles as well as songs from Just for a Day, Souvlaki, and Pygmalion. Anyone that has never listened to Slowdive before will find much to enjoy in this nice compilation. The early singles “Slowdive,” “Avalyn I,” “Morningrise,” “Golden Hair,” “Shine,” and “So Tired” give the listener the impression of slipping into a coma. Glossy gossamer sheets of distortion form the basis for the Slowdive guitar sound. Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s vocals float just below the surface. It is a thing of pure beauty. Selections from Just for a Day are limited to “Catch the Breeze” and “Spanish Air.” Every song from the entire Souvlaki record is here except for “Altogether.” Pygmalion selections are limited to just a brief five songs. These are where the band changes sound and is heavily influenced by ambient music. The layered guitars are stripped away in favor of distant echoes and sparse vocals. Brian Eno produced some of the songs from Pygmalion, and anyone familiar with his ambient works will find no problems seeing the influence he had here. At this point Slowdive was only made up of Neil Halstead with some minor vocal work by Rachel Goswell.

As a longtime Slowdive fan, I was actually a little disappointed with the tracklisting. Many of the early singles, which are all magnificent, did not make the cut, including “She Calls,” “Losing Today,” and the two tracks from a flexidisc 7″ “Beach Song” and “Take Me Down.” Just for a Day‘s gorgeous “Celia’s Dream” and “Ballad of Sister Sue” (which was a single by the way) are nowhere to be found. Almost the entire Souvlaki record is here, but only five tracks from Pygmalion? It seems unfair considering that neither the early singles collection Blue Day nor Pygmalion, both of which are out of print, were ever released here in the states, while both Just for a Day and Souvlaki are still available and at cheap prices to boot.

Overall I would say that this is still a really great collection of material from one of the best bands of the early 90s. Any fan of Sigur Ros or The Appleseed Cast’s Low Level Owl records should definitely pick this up if they are not already Slowdive fans. While the tracklist may leave a bad taste in the mouths of some looking for proper versions of long out-of-print and download-only material, it may bring some new fans into the fold. By the way, where are the I Am the Elephant You are the Mouse soundtrack songs?