When I think about what shoegaze music is and sounds like, Slowdive is usually the first band that comes to mind. Out of any band, they create the cleanest, purest version of that quintessential shoegaze sound – loud choruses that create ethereal landscapes with layers of distorted guitar, atmospheric synths and drowned out, whispered vocals; frantic lead guitar strumming that soars to the top of the mix either as a surprise solo or a transition from verses to chorus; softer, grunge-style verses that feature dissonant, bending and flanged guitar work and slow, heavy drums. Everything they put together sounds so clean and deliberate, compared to most other shoegaze acts that produced a muddier, fuzzy, dark, garage sound.
At its peak, Souvlaki is peak shoegaze, but it is an album that gets propped up by three or four great tracks, while the others are all fine.
I adore “Allison,” “40 Days” and “When the Sun Hits,” three songs that would be criminal exclusions from any shoegaze mixtape or playlist.
However, the slower songs on the album don’t quite do it for me all the time. They all have potential and good elements, but kind of blend together, and I think other than “When The Sun Hits,” the back half of the record is a little weak. “Sing” has that sour-sounding lead guitar that feels a little too on the nose for me. “Space Station” has some intensity, but tries to do a little too much without ever really gelling together. “Altogether” serves as a change or pace but isn’t all that interesting.
Most of the tracks do something that is great or interesting, but don’t quite reach their potential. That’s not particularly surprising for what, at the time, was a young, emerging band within a somewhat unexplored and expanding genre.
All in all, Souvlaki may not my absolute favorite shoegaze record, but is a great introduction into the genre for anyone wanting to test the waters, and a great comfort album for diehards wanting to listen to something good that they don’t have to think too hard about. It’s really good music and absolutely a classic.