Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 9/25/08
Of the bands that came out of the shoegaze genre in the U.K., Slowdive was the band that stood more than anyone. Even against the much-beloved, widely-acclaimed My Bloody Valentine. Formed in 1989 by vocalist/guitarist Neil Halstead and vocalist/guitarist Rachel Goswell along with guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Adrian Sell. The Reading, England quintet were already fans of the burgeoning shoegaze scene. When Sell left the band in 1990 and replaced by Simon Scott, the band released an EP that helped get them a deal with the famed indie label Creation Records. Two more recordings led the band to record their full-length debut album entitled Just For a Day.
Produced by Chris Hufford with songs written by Neil Halstead, Just For a Day is an album that features the band's unique approach to the shoegaze sound. Filled with dreamy melodies, the atmospheric vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, and rich guitar work. More dream-pop than My Bloody Valentine, less rockier than Ride, and less melodic-driven than Lush. Slowdive has a unique sound that stands them out against their contemporaries as the result isn't just a great debut, but one of the best records of the shoegaze genre.
The album opener Spanish Air is a slow, bass-pounding track with Nick Chaplin's wobbly bass line, Simon Scott's soft, thundering beats, and the shimmering, dream-like, triple-guitar work of Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and Christian Savill. Halstead sings the song through his atmospheric, enchanting vocals with Goswell doing backing vocals. With a washy, droning riff popping up by Savill, Halstead and Goswell's vocals take shape through the harmonies in this dream-like opener that included an instrumental coda of acoustic guitar and cello accompaniments. Celia's Dream is another slow number led by its smooth, wobbly rhythm and chime-wash guitar tracks as Halstead sings in his ethereal, vocal style with a soft, wail in the guitars. Halstead's vocals match the song's dream-like imagery in his lyrics as it's filled with intense, moody guitar tracks and rhythms for its tone with flourishes of arpeggio chimes and drones.
Catch The Breeze is a slow but more rhythmic-driven track with its rumbling beats and bass lines as Halstead and Goswell sing through the soft, shimmering guitar tracks in the background. With its distorted drones and ethereal presentation, the song is filled with psychedelic-laden lyrics as it features layers of guitar tracks with wailing solos and washy, drone riffs. Ballad Of Sister Sue is a chime-laden track awash with guitar flourishes, a smooth bass line, and Goswell's haunting yet soothing vocals. With drums starting to emerge, Halstead joins in on vocals as they sing dark, haunting lyrics as the guitar washes and chimes continue to drive the song. Erik's Song is an instrumental track with just a shimmering guitar drone and a piano accompaniment as soft vocals are heard through the production.
Waves is a mid-tempo number with washy, arpeggio-laden guitar tracks and bouncy bass line spurred by its smooth snare fill. Halstead and Goswell both sing through their gorgeous harmonies with Halstead's imagery-laden lyrics. With the song's tempo picking up and the guitars shimmering through, it's definitely a standout cut. Brighter is another mid-tempo track with a more melodic bass accompaniment and pounding drums led by its dream-like guitar washes and Goswell's ethereal vocals. With Halstead singing the chorus, the song is filled with guitar flourishes ranging from dream-like washes to droning backgrounds.
The Sadman arrives with an arpeggio guitar riff and a washy guitar background as soft, tribal beats play in the background. Rachel Goswell starts to sing as wailing guitar drones start to pop up during the chorus that's heightend by its production. The album closer Primal is a slow, mid-tempo number with a smooth, bouncy rhythm and arpeggio guitar chimes flourishing as Halstead and Goswell sing. With the rhythm picking up and the guitars getting more intense, so does Halstead's vocals in the song's dream-like lyrics as the guitars start to shimmer with its drone for the coda.
The 2005 reissue of Just For a Day includes a second disc filled with 12 extra tracks from the band's early EPs including 3 songs from a radio session with John Peel recorded on 4/21/91. The bonus disc opens a song named after the band, not a cover of the Siouxsie & the Banshees song. The upbeat, mid-tempo song with thumping rhythms, droning guitar wails, and Neil Halstead's breathy, ethereal vocals. The song is more shoegaze in comparison to their more dreamier material as Rachel Goswell joins Halstead in the vocals during the second verse. Avalyn 1 is a slow yet dream-like cut with smooth, thundering beats, wobbly bass lines, and droning guitars that features spurts of feedback. With Goswell singing through indistinct lyrics and atmospheric vocals as the song continues to display its drone-like presentation. Avalyn 2 is a continuation of the previous song that is expanded as an instrumental track with arpeggio chimes played in the background.
Morningrise is a mid-tempo, bass-driven track led by its thumping rhythms, droning guitar noises, and Halstead's haunting vocals. With its dream-like, cosmic lyrics, Halstead leads the song as Goswell joins him on vocals on some parts that includes wailing guitar solos that shimmers through the song. She Calls arrives with its smooth, rumbling beats, droning guitar swirls, and Goswell's eerie yet ethereal vocals. Then the song becomes a more rhythmic track with Halstead singing lead with Goswell joining him as the guitars continue to drone as the song moves back and forth in its structure. Losing Today is a slow yet haunting track with rumbles in the background as the dreamy guitar washes and chimes lead the way with Halstead's vocals. With its swooning tone and shimmering guitars, the atmospheric vocals of Halstead and Goswell play through the song's production.
Next is a cover of Syd Barrett's Golden Hair as Slowdive brings a haunting version to Barrett's classic, that includes excerpts from the work of James Joyce. With Rachel Goswell singing Barrett's disturbing yet fragile lyrics, the song is filled with guitar shimmers and soft, background distortions. With its instrumental coda filled with guitar drones, loopy bass lines, and soft beats, the song is a unique interpretation of a song created by one of the co-founders of Pink Floyd. Shine arrives with its swooning guitar drones and wobbly bass lines as Rachel Goswell sings the song with indistinct lyrics filled with her amazing vocals. With washy guitar chimes leading the way and a smooth, mid-tempo beat, it's a standout cut from the bonus disc. Albatross is an ethereal, rumble of a song with droning guitar shimmers, Halstead's vocals and pounding bass drums. With Halstead singing softly, the song intensify with its drums and guitar drones as it moves back and forth in structure.
The last three tracks come from the John Peel session for the BBC on April 21, 1991 with Catch The Breeze as the first. The song features louder guitars in the coda and more atmospheric vocals from Halstead on lead and Goswell on backing vocals. Shine includes a louder snare fill and more evocative vocals from Goswell. The final track is their cover of Syd Barrett's Golden Hair that has Halstead singing lead instead of Goswell. With its droning, shimmering guitars, it's a fitting closer to the album in its deluxe edition.
Released in the fall of 1991 in the U.K. by Creation Records, the album was a hit in the U.K. music scene just as the shoegaze genre was about to reach its peak two months later with the release of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. After getting some attention through American college radio and alternative stations, the album was released through SBK label a year later but sales in the U.S. weren't impressive. Still, Slowdive managed to gain critical acclaim despite the shoegaze genre's decline with the U.K. press focusing on the burgeoning American grunge music scene.
Despite the repetitive sound of the album, Just For a Day is still a fascinating debut release from Slowdive. Its deluxe edition is something hardcore fans must have since it contains several unreleased tracks and rarities. For enthusiasts of the shoegaze scene, it's one of the essential records of the genre. In the end, Just For a Day is a dreamy, evocative debut release from Slowdive.
(C) thevoid99 2011