Slowdive, Pygmalion

Todd Burns

By Todd Burns

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Neil Halstead had always been the leader of Slowdive, but on 1995's Pygmalion he basically was the band. The band's third album features some vocals from Rachel Goswell and light drumming from Ian McCutcheon, but little else contribution-wise from the rest of the group. (Former percussionist Simon Scott had left the band after the 5 EP because he presumably saw the writing on the wall when Halstead got more and more interested in drum machines.)

When drum machines and ecstasy attack (shoegaze bands)!

It certainly sounds like a solo record. “Rutti,” the spacious and slow-moving opener, is the Durutti Column's Vini Reilly filtered through ambient techno, while “Crazy for You” similarly spends much of its running time luxuriating in Halstead's titular incantation. Indeed, much of Pygmalion is luxurious — given the room to stretch out, Halstead songs feel less like you're listening to them and more like you're living in them.

Unfortunately, the label heads at Creation Records were looking for a pop album on the order of previous works like Just for a Day and Souvlaki — and they quickly dropped Slowdive after the release of Pygmalion; the group broke up shortly afterward. It was to be expected, really. When a record by a shoegaze band comes along that's this good, how are you supposed to follow it up? Just ask Kevin Shields.