Souvlaki is Slowdive's masterpiece and just for this, it should be an instantaneous five stars rating. Still, you should go with this 2CD edition (Cherry Red) because of the extras songs contained on the second disk (which are taken from EPs and CD5s). And I'll tell you this: the first time I heard Alison I think I was in high school (1999 circa) and Slowdive had already broke up. The first time I drank a craft beer at a brewpub was in 2005. There's no correlations between the two events but I only wanted to tell you about my life. I think I should go back and listen to Alison. Yup, definitely.
Slowdive are, for me, the band that most defines, and are the best representative of, the genre "shoegazer." The name "shoegazer" was originally a derogatory term (like "impressionism" for that French school of late-19th-century painters, interestingly) coined by some snotty British music journalist to apply to a crop of bands such as Ride, Lush, and My Bloody Valentine, that appeared in the early 90's and whose sound was defined by dense layers of guitar textures and that tended to effect a distinctly introverted stage presence. Actually, most people are not familiar with the term or the music: you certainly won't hear any "shoegaze" on hit radio. While in the main, shoegaze music tended to be melodic as well as loud and textured, part of what set Slowdive apart is how much more both sweetly melodic and densely layered their music was compared with their contemporaries. They hit their stride with Souvlaki, their second full-length LP, and made the most sonically ravishing and unforgettable album of their ilk. An important part of their sound and unique charm is the male/female unison vocals of singers/guitarists Neil Nalstead and Rachel Goswell, which sounds like it could have been lifted from some sixties folk/pop outfit, only... it's not. It fits in beautifully with the expanses of sound and color wash that fill out this music, though. It all soars and lifts magnificently. There's a good dynamic range between the songs, too, from the yearning, searching "Alison," delicate reverbed-guitar picking of "Here She Comes Now," overwhelming wall-of-sound tsunami of "Souvlaki Space Station," and haunting, faraway, acoustic "Dagger"; the album never gets samey or washed-out as is the distinct danger with this kind of music. Fully-realized and a complete and satisfying experience, Slowdive's _Souvlaki_ is a real treasure.
Souvlaki is a pretty incredible album, and it certainly contains some of the most beautiful guitar sounds set to tape. Had this record not fallen victim to the usual label nonsense back in the day thanks in part to SBK records (their U.S. label), it might have garnered some more attention. But unfortunately, My Bloody Valentine's classic Loveless overshadowed many great shoegazer records of the day, including this one. Yes, Loveless is the epitome of the "shoegazer" trend, easily the best record the movement produced. But Souvlaki is a very close second, focusing on creating a lusher soundscape than Loveless' onslaught of white noise. Mixing the dreamy guitar patterns of MBV with the ethereal ambience of the Cocteau Twins, Slowdive were brilliant in their creation of surreal soundscapes. "Alison" deservedly gets attention as a brilliant pop single, but "When The Sun Hits," "40 Days," and the Eno-touched "Sing" are all not to be overlooked. The strangely-titled "Souvlaki Space Station" is another highlight, a brilliant mixture of white noise, delay, layering, and instrument manipulation creating a perfect soundscape that nobody's really been able to duplicate. This record is a must for anybody who worships Loveless.
slowdive, are a brilliant band. the name intrigues you to find out who they are and what they are all about, and when you do, you hear a wonderous noise from the echoes of guitars and dreamy vocals. "souvlaki" is like a dream, and it's entrancing melodies and harmonious guitar work, overlaying one another with extra reverb sounds wonderful. my favorites are "souvlaki space station" and "when the sun hits", but all of the other tracks are brilliant as well. "some velvet morning" is an excellent addition to this album, and the technoish, trance extra songs here aren't that bad. if you're into radiohead, blur, my bloody valentine, or any of these brits, you should check slowdive out.
It seems odd to begin a five-star review with the assertion that this is the greatest album to fall asleep to in the history of recording, but in this rare case that is a solid compliment. From the first notes of Alison, the opener, to the final instrumentals on the disc, Slowdive somehow manages to drop a veil over the world that makes all its outlines fuzzy, soft and warm. It's psychedelic, but simple. Calming, but moving. Beautiful, and slightly spooky. Once, on a rainy, errand-filled day, a friend and I put on Souvlaki, and by the time the disc reached Sing, my favorite song, we were well into one of the most satisfying naps I've ever experienced. This CD is rain, it's 5am, it's snow at twilight, and all things pure and untouched that you want to selfishly keep in a box all to yourself.