Slowdive - Falling and Laughing

They come from Reading, they formed 11 months ago, and they've just released the finest debut single of the year. PAUL LESTER tries to get serious with SLOWDIVE, a band who just can't seem to stop grinning for the cameras. Pic: STEPHEN SWEET


"SCRUB my backside with a cheese-grater and coat it in surgical spirit, slowdive? Very original, I don't f***ing think! Have these anaemic students c***s spent the last two years holidaying on Venus, or what? Slowdive?? Doesn't it occur to these useless, skinny arsewipes that their name might bear just the slightest resemblance to Swervedriver, Ride and every song ever writtenby My Bloody f***ing Valentine? Copycat twats! Have a decent meal, put a bit of weight on, and get a proper job, you clueless shit-for-brains! Spotty c***s!"

SLOWDIVE are either possessed of superhuman amounts of self-confidence, or they're out-and-out masochists. Why? Because the above piece of flagellating nastiness comes from the mouths, not of MM' s very own cross between Vlad The Impaler and Attila The Hun, the inestimatable Mr Abusing, but of the five Slowdive boys and girl themselves. And the reason they've decided to compose such a auto-mutilating chunk of bruised, purple prose? Because, as far as Slowdive are concerned, Mr Abusing is God.

"He's brilliant," gushes guitarist Christian Savill, the chap who apparently joined Slowdive after writing a begging letter to singer Rachel Goswell, and writer/guitarist Neil Halstead. "He should be f***ing knighted, get the OBE-something! We've spent the whole tour ripping off Mr Abusing."

"Yeah," agrees bassist Nick Chaplin, former Duranie, and owner of a fine Nick Rhodes fringe, 1981-style. "'Tear myarsehole with industrial tape!'" Drummer Neil Carter muscles in on the act. '''Swivel on a pole through a pile of pigshit!'" he starts, aiming for Slowdive' s weak spot. "'Ignorant shitehawks! They mess about with a few special effects and they think they've created art! Gormless tossers! They wouldn't know a delay pedal if it was rammed up where the sun doesn't shine, f***ing losers!'"

Rachel, who tells me later on that all she ever gets is acne-ridden, 15-year-old adolescent males slobbering after her at gigs, and is presently 'Waiting for somebody nice to come and sweep me off my feet," is far too demure and ladylike to join. in the vitriolic banter. But she does have one question about the whole sordid business.

"who is Mr Abusing?"

NOW that would be telling. Suffice it to say that, after perusing a recent mat Capital Radio, in which they were described as "Fat egotistical bastards giving us f***ing earache!" Run DMC had to be physically restrained from jumping in the nearest taxi and coming over Blackfriars Bridge to personally clobber our Mr A. It must be said, however, that Slowdive' s obsession with the Maker's own Alf Garnett-with-haemorrhoids, doesn't extend to the rest of the paper. They like it, but they just don't always understand it.

"Can I just ask you what 'Arsequake speed-without-trajectory symposium' actually means?" says Nick, baffled by the excitable review that made their eponymous debut EP Single OfThe Week, in the November 10 issue.

Christian: "It really annoys me when music writers start finding things in records that weren't there in the first place."

Neil Carter: "Yeah, that's just imposing your ideas onto something."

Christian: "They (hacks) force it down your throat sometimes."

Nick: "If you wanna be massively arty about it, and say this is the greatest thing since whatever, I love it with all my soul and I'd die for it, then fine."

Christian: ''The only problem is, when they say stuff like that, I never understand a lot of the words they use."

Go and read some books, young man!

"I went to public school, you know." A savage indictment of Britain's private education system.

IT'S less that Slowdive are ungrateful for the ravished gazes directed their way since their inception in January '90, more that the attention embarrasses and/or bemuses them. They don't know why they're so good, nor do they have any idea just what it is they did to make the "Slowdive" EP the most delicious piece of plastic (45 rpm variety) of the year.

"If you knew, you might not like it any more," says Christian, sitting on the basement Roor of Manchester's Boardwalk, 10 minutes after playing a typically brief, but thoroughly exquisite half-hour set upstairs.

"It's justa feeling, one that maybe makes you feel good," adds Neil Halstead, who tells me he wrote "Slowdive" and "Avalyn" in about 60 minutes.

One Maker writer has said he listens to both tunes in the bath. . .

"Yeah, a lot of bands are into that really obvious melody and noise thing, but I think we're going for a more ambient sound. It's not a conscious move to fit in with the dance scene, but there are porallels between what DJs are doing, removing the beats from House tunes, and that sort of come-down music we're trying to get."

Another writer has described them as Cocteau Twins' demos. I take this to be a compliment: the music on "Slowdive" has a gorgeous, "unfinished" quality that makes you go back to it again and again. There are no hooks, just slips and slides, and the kind of melodic shilts that cause heart-pangs in the listener.

"Our music's a celebration of life. It' s got quite a druggy feel," says Halstead, before inadvertently summing up the luscious blend of languid melancholia and dazed el!phoria that forms a film over their sound. "It's about feeling good and feeling pissed off at the same time."

Rachel: "People say it's brilliantto get stoned to, and that's great."

Nick: "It's good f***ing music." Does he mean it's good f***ing music, or it's good f***ing music? "It's music to have sex to."

Christian: "My neighbour listens to it when she cycles to work.".

Neil Halstead: "It's music for all occasions, really. No one's slagged it off yet. Everyone seems to like it."

THIS isn't arrogance, justa plain statement-of-fact. Right now, Slowdive are bursting with so much promise you can see the sparks flying off them.

"I'm gobsmacked," exclaims Rachel, one-time gothette and winner of Reading's Best Siouxsie Lookalike contest, in between performing Les Dawson-ish gurning facial contortions for Stephen Sweet. "I never thought we'd ever get anywhere. It's just. . . unreaL"

Did you ever feel that you were going to do something brilliant with your life in your lacquer-and-eyeliner days?

"No! But I always wanted to do something special."

There's a mystery x-factor that some people/groups are bestowed with by some divine extraterrestial presence, a magical essence that's both beyond their control, and our analysis. Itcan't be contrived or worked towards. You've either got it- in which case, flaunt it-or you haven't- in which case, you mightas well give up now, because you're getting in the way, and clogging up the path for future Slowdives to burn along.

Christian: 'We wanna be timeless. We're still really young, and we're going to get better. We haven't got a masterplan, but soon people are going to start comparing other bands to Slowdive."

Neil Halstead: "You know that Byrds' boxed-set that everyone's writing about at the moment?The best thing for Slowdive would be, in 10 or 20 years time, loads of reviewers saying, 'Rock' n' roll would never be what it is without Slowdive'. That's my ambition." Rock' n'roll wouldn't have been the same in 1990 without Slowdive. will that do, Neil?

Originally appeared in Melody Maker December 15, 1990
Copyright © Melody Maker Magazine