For the longest time I saw Souvlaki as Slowdive’s middle-child. It felt lost between the expansive, rainy day atmospherics of Just For A Day and the minimalist melancholia of Pygmalion. As such, I relegated it to the status of an “introductory” album — a beginner’s album with training wheels, if you will.
But if that’s the case, then why do I find myself reaching for this album more than any of their other efforts? Perhaps it’s because it feels so mature. It was only the band’s second proper album, but it’s imminently more listenable than Just For A Day.
Songs like “Machine Gun,” “Melon Yellow,” and “Altogether” are languid masterpieces, drawing in the listener and settling around them like new-fallen snow. “Souvlaki Space Station” sounds like something piped over the PA of crystalline spaceships; Rachel Goswell’s voice floats around like splinters of sunlight glinting off satellites. The album’s closer, the acoustic “Dagger,” may just be one of the most heartrending and honest songs Neil Halstead ever penned. American fans even got an extra 4 songs that spotlighted the band’s excursions into techno and trance music, and those aren’t half-bad either.
Perhaps some might argue with me on this one, but Souvlaki may be greatest dreampop album ever written (next to Loveless). Although I still consider Pygmalion to be the band’s finest moment, it was also the album that drove the band apart. As such, Pygmalion ultimately feels a bit like a side-project.
Souvlaki is Slowdive’s best collective effort, funneling the atmospherics of their previous efforts into a more cohesive package. Souvlaki is still the best introduction to Slowdive. Not because it’s a lesser album, but because it’s the best at showing Slowdive in all of their radiant glory.