Slowdive – “Sugar for the Pill” (Singles Going Steady)

Based on "Sugar for the Pill", Slowdive's forthcoming LP looks like it may be their most nocturnal and reflective yet.

Andrew Paschal: Coming from a group rooted in ’90s shoegaze and post-rock, “Sugar for the Pill” sounds surprisingly timeless. The simple, celestial guitar line sounds like classic rock at its most contemplative, yet the song also wears a certain cosmic weariness, like a less goofy version of the Highwaymen’s eponymous debut single. While hardly surprising given that more than twenty years have passed, it’s nonetheless striking to compare Neil Halstead’s gruff, worn vocals here with the nasal youth of “Alison”. Even more so than the angsty masterpiece Souvlaki or the spartan Pygmalion, Slowdive’s forthcoming LP looks like it may be their most nocturnal and reflective yet. [8/10]

Mike Schiller: For a minute or so, our latest taste of Slowdive’s long-awaited (22 years!) new album isn’t a million miles from something the xx might release. Eventually, the drums kick in, and we end up with something a little more traditionally shoegaze, with all of the softly-sung vocals, heavy delay, and layered guitars such a label implies. It’s very pretty actually, even if it isn’t really as expansive as shoegaze has the potential to be. There are worse things to be than lovely wallpaper. [7/10]

Adriane Pontecorvo: Dreamy new music from a seasoned group. There’s a shoegaze feel to “Sugar for the Pill”, but it’s a thoroughly modern bliss that washes over the listener, soothing and cathartic, tinged with sorrow. Simplicity in each piece — bass, voice, guitar, electronic echoes — creates a beautiful, symmetrical whole. A slight rawness to the vocals lends the perfect human touch to Slowdive’s moody lullaby, giving it just the edge it needs to keep from being too slick. [9/10]

Steve Horowitz: Yeah, we all know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but this needs to be sweeter to be effective. The reflective nature of the music combined with the drowsy vocals do put one in a trance — but sleeping is not the same as dreaming, and there is not enough here to grab onto. Cry if you want to. Feel the weight of the world. Mortality is right around the corner. The gauzy material may temporarily insulate one from reality but not much more. [5/10]

John Bergstrom: This year finds the reunited Slowdive in an enviable yet awkward place. They are more popular and revered than they ever were during their ’90s run, which adds the pressure. For example, some fans complained their first new song in over 20 years, the gorgeous “Star Roving”, was too fast. Well, “Sugar for the Pill” is slower, and it is gorgeous as well. Led by a bassline that is more lyrical than you would expect from this band, it is a less dense yet more sophisticated take on their atmospheric, melancholic sound. Instead of using guitar effects to ape synthesizers, now they just use a synth. Which is fine when the results are so poignant. Neil Halstead’s voice is more worn, which fits the delicate mood. Some people are going to be disappointed because it doesn’t sound just like “Alison”. Everyone else can take “Sugar for the Pill” as a very good omen for the band’s upcoming album. [8/10]

Paul Carr: This second single from the band’s follow up to their 1995 Pygmalion album, has all the ingredients of classic Slowdive. It begins with classic sounding, ringing, ambient guitar notes that hit the surface then ripple away. The driving bassline adds a little more tension to proceedings and acts as the ballast to stop the song drifting off. It shows a band slightly tweaking a winning formula without losing the essence of what made Slowdive one of the definitive bands of the shoegaze eras. Unfortunately, it is impossible to listen to this without thinking it’s going to break into the chorus of Black’s “Wonderful Life”. [6/10]

Scott Zuppardo: Slowdive is back again after over two decades with a tension-taming soother! That would be a hell of a tagline but seriously truth on this song at least. Glad they’re making the rounds again, indie electronica heads rejoice. This song is playing at Starbucks right now as you put your card into that annoying chip reader deal. [7/10]

Chris Ingalls: England’s ’90s dream pop darlings are back with their first album in more than 20 years and it’s as if they never left. Their gentle, hypnotic shoegaze style is virtually unscathed, a balm for hard times. The song’s delicate nature recalls the atmospherics of bands like the Blue Nile and even just a touch of ’80s-era Roxy Music. Gorgeous stuff. [8/10]

SCORE: 7.25

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