Review of Sleep Shelter ep by Rachel Goswell (ex-Slowdive).
- Disclaimer: This is just my opinion of Rachel's ep, which a pal of
mine in the UK sent me. I would love to hear the opinions of anyone
else who has listened to the ep and/or her full-length solo album.
In my review of this ep I tend to extrapolate my view to her album,
although I have not heard it. I am hoping that the material on her
album surpasses what was included on the ep. Ok, on to my review -
Review of Sleep Shelter ep by Rachel Goswell
Or as I prefer to call it, Sleep-Due-To-Boredom Shelter. I know, not
as catchy, but definitely more accurate. I didn't want to have to
write a negative review, and maybe this 5-song ep is not indicative
of the song quality on Rachel's solo album (I haven't heard it yet),
but I was very disappointed by the lazy lyrics, poor musical
execution, half-finished songs, and worst of all, uninspired vocals
on this ep.
As part of Slowdive, Rachel's vocals were gorgeously melancholy and
buoyant on the ascending waves and crests of the signature Slowdive
wall-of-guitar sound. In Mojave 3, all of Slowdive's sonic splendor
was stripped away to reveal lyrics once buried in feedback and a more
simple alt-country sound with Rachel singing and harmonizing
beautifully on too few tracks.
Whether Mojave 3 was your cup of tea after the sonic heights and
density of Slowdive depended on your willingness to follow the band
members into new terrain (I do want to mention that Mojave 3 is not
the only branch growing out of Slowdive; a couple other band members
formed another band called Monster Movie that sound nothing like
their moniker and are quite good, from the songs I've heard).
Then Rachel struck out on her own, and it was with great excitement
that fans of Slowdive, Mojave 3, and Rachel Goswell awaited the
release of her solo album. The major looming question was what
would the album sound like, Slowdive or Mojave 3?
Based on the ep, it sounds like a more lackluster Mojave 3 without
the musical chops, insightful lyrics, and emotional depth.
Two out of the 5 songs on the ep are also on the album, Plucked and
Sleeping `n' Tooting. Plucked is an intimate, slow-paced song with a
wandering melody line and simplistic lyrics and sound, redeemed by
Rachel's pretty vocals and elegiac tone (strings come in near the
close; cellos, I think). It's also way too short and left me wanting
more, always a good sign, and a nice start to the ep.
Next up is Sleeping `n' Tooting, a slicker, country-type song that
reminds me of old Fleetwood Mac out-takes where Christine McVie had
lead vocals 70's-sounding in the instrumental backing and some
slight harmonizing vocals (nothing against the Mac, as they have
produced some great songs). There's something wrong with the mix
because Rachel's voice sounds thin and nasal and limited in its
range. The sound overpowers her and while she always had a laid-
back, sad inflection to her voice, here it contrasts too much with
the upbeat nature of the song.
The rest of the songs are not on her album, and in the case of one of
the songs, that's quite a shame. Before we get to that one, however,
we must tackle Flying with Gene. Once again the sound mix is bad,
with the instruments coming off too loudly. Rachel doesn't have
enough gravity to her voice and it sounds like she's hurriedly
singing through the chorus, not even sounding totally on-key. The
overemphasis on shallow lyrics, pushed home by repetition, and
strident instruments weigh the song down, instead of carrying it away.
The next song, Sticking with Grace, is a welcome reprieve and return
to form (and, unfortunately, is not on the album). Rachel sings in a
higher register and sounds more self-assured. It's a sweet, more
emotive song along the lines of Mojave 3, with upbeat guitars, a more
pleasant and memorable melody, and more lyrically complex. The song
is light on its feet and almost, but not quite achieves grace.
Come Rescue Me ends the ep on a slow, regretful note, with the
emphasis on plaintive vocals, lyrics, and guitar. Rachel's voice
returns to being pallid and not emotive enough. The lyrics "come
rescue me" are repeated too many times for comfort the listener
ends up hoping someone (or some other album) will come rescue them
from the half-formed songs on the ep.
Sleep Shelter needs a wake up call to give it more zest and life. It
also needs to be mixed properly. Most of the songs sound like demos
and, without the sonic beauty and veil of mystery of Slowdive's songs
or the solid structure and catchy melodies of Mojave 3's songs, the
Sleep Shelter ep's faults are laid bare. This could have been an
autumnal solo masterpiece in the vein of Out of Season by Beth
Gibbons (of Portishead, with Rustin' Man). Instead the sound is one-
note and no boundaries are stretched lyrically, musically, and most
sadly of all, vocally.
Rachel has so much potential and maybe her full album, Waves are
Universal, is better than the material chosen for this ep. Here's