Slowdive was a dream-pop/shoegaze band from Reading, England in the 1990s. They released their first record in the autumn of 1991 to mixed reviews, but it ended up reaching #3 on the UK alternative albums chart. That record, as the story goes, was written and recorded on the fly. Just after they were signed to Creation Records, Neil Halstead convinced the head of the record company that they had enough songs to start recording. In reality, they had none. In six weeks, they went from nothing to a full, finished album.
Souvlaki was a quite different story. They apparently had hundreds of songs written and more than 40 recorded in preparation for the new album. As the story goes, they were worried about how the record would be received by NME and Melody Maker, so they ditched them all and started over. The rest of the story sounds a bit fictional, but it involves Brian Eno, some hastily written songs, toy race cars, a couple of delayed release dates, Neil Halstead pulling a disappearing act, a couple of ridiculous viral ad campaigns and another band member angrily leaving the band.
Whatever the real story may be, the end result — Souvlaki is incredible. It’s by far my favorite record of theirs and one of my “most favorite” records of that decade. Or any decade, for that matter. I remember being home from college for the summer when it was released. The UK release was in May of 1993, while it wasn’t properly released in the US until February of 1994. I looked forward to, and paid the extra dough for the “import” version upon its UK release. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the version that I have (crecd 139x, with the bonus cd of the Blue Day EP) while unnumbered, is from a run of only 1,000 copies. Ahh. The good old days when you had to ask the record shop to order something for you, then you had to wait a couple of weeks for it to arrive from the distributor. They already had this one in stock, and I tried to get them to order another one for me, but the limited run ran out. Good times.
There are a lot of breathtaking songs on Souvlaki, and it’s a very soothing record. The story goes that a lot of drugs were used in the making of the record, and it’s probably one of those things where drugs might enhance the listener’s enjoyment of it. I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that this record, although calm and soothing, is meant to be played LOUD. I like this one with the windows open and the volume cranked. This album, and this song in particular, is really good for driving on a spring evening. At twilight.
I’ll suggest that you annoy your spouse, or your kids, or your coworkers by playing this very loud on your cruddy computer speakers right now. Then later, you should dust off your copy of Souvlaki (or buy a copy immediately!) and play it loudly on a proper set-up later. No. I mean LOUDly. Anger the neighbors if that’s what it takes. Just do it.
“When the Sun Hits” by Slowdive
I’m not even going to get into the lyrics. My favorite part of the song from a musical standpoint? It’s the bit from 0:00 to 4:47. It’s not because I’m being lazy. It’s what it is. The bit that I don’t like, from a serious angle, is the 1970s-style fade-out at the end. I think it’s a bit sloppy. Too sudden and too dramatic. I could stand for the song to be a couple of minutes longer, but if that’s the way the song has to end, I’d almost prefer a cut to black to the not-so-gradual fade.
Souvlaki was reissued a couple of years ago with some different bonus tracks. All sorts of different versions and different formats are available at the amazon store. If you can, though, get it from your local shop.