‘Souvlaki’, a dream pop gem
The 1990s saw a wave of incredible alternative rock and pop albums.
Lots of bands were making spaced, dreamy music, with huge textures and soundscapes. In fact, there was a whole sub-genre of music emerging from the UK that used dreamy and distorted guitars.
The music was often woozy and atmospheric. These groups used their vocal melodies as an additional instrument to add to the dreamy feeling of the music, instead of the vocals being the main focus.
Slowdive released “Souvlaki” in May 1993. The album drew intense criticism and unnecessary contempt for the band.
But years later, the album is considered a staple of the dream pop genre. “Souvlaki” is a heavy-hearted, coming-of-age album that deals with emotional turmoil associated with aging.
The album mostly centers around a breakup involving Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead, who both play guitar and sing in the band. The album is written from Halstead’s perspective and he is the main lyricist throughout.
One of the songs on the album is “Souvlaki Space Station”. The track lasts six minutes and encompasses a whirlwind of dreamy instruments. “Souvlaki Space Station” is the best representation of the heaviness and reverie of the effects on this album.
Guitars sound like another world because they are buried in layers of reverb and delay.
Slowdive’s guitar parts are fairly straightforward throughout the record, but the use of effects makes the music complex and complex. Guitar melodies swirl and bounce throughout the song to create transcendent sounds.
Another remarkable track from this album is “Machine Gun”.
Goswell takes up the vocals of this piece and his high-pitched vocal melodies go well with the instrumentation. Halstead contributes to the vocal melody of the chorus and the contrast between their vocals is a nice addition to the song.
The drums on this track aren’t convoluted, but they keep a nice groove for the duration of the song.
On many of these songs, the focus is on the guitars, which is typical of the dream pop genre, as listeners generally enjoy playing the guitar the most.
“40 Days” is another track listeners should pay attention to on “Souvlaki”.
It’s one of the catchiest songs on the album, and Halstead’s vocals pair beautifully with the reverb-soaked guitars. The song is one of several on the album where Halstead faces the breakup with his fellow band member.
Referring to his relationship with Goswell and the attachment he still feels for her, Halstead confesses, “If I saw something new I guess I wouldn’t worry. If I saw something new
I guess I wouldn’t care.
At the time of this recording, Halstead was explaining that if someone new came into his life, he wouldn’t notice because he was still in love with Goswell.
The atmosphere of the music and the lyrics that accompany it are undeniably appropriate. The vocals are again buried in the reverb and used as additional instrumentation instead of the main focus of the music.
The lyrics are irrelevant throughout the record as the band gets their message across through the sounds they create.
The closing track of the song titled “Dagger”, is the most bare-bones song on the record as it consists only of Halstead’s vocals and guitar playing.
Compared to other songs, the guitar playing on this song is quite understandable.
Halstead wrote this song on his own, isolated from the rest of the band.
This song is a great way to end “Souvlaki” as “Dagger” encompasses themes of grief, loss and reflection. It encompasses most of the lyrical themes of the album and concludes the record in a simple but beautiful way.