True Widow – s/t
(Release Date: Nov. 11, 2008, End Sounds)
By Matthew Ralph
I have a confession to make. When I first heard about this band I mistook them for a spin-off of Slowdive when in actuality they are a spin-off of Slowride. I lived with this illusion up until about the time I sat down to start writing a review. As I was writing the review in my head, I started to think about how often bands with former members of awe-inspiring bands underwhelm because of how high the expectation is. The Loose Salute and The Autumn Defense came to mind as I started to craft an opening paragraph.
As it turns out, True Widow doesn’t buck that trend because their only connection to the legendary shoegaze act is that they spun off from a band with a name that sounds like Slowdive. I’ve not heard Slowride to make any comparisons, but my confusion perhaps lasted as long as it did because True Widow’s sound isn’t too far off the well worn path of bands that would be listed as “followers of” in Slowdive’s entry on All Music. As critics of the shoegaze/slowcore/whatever you want to call it movement would probably say, the brooding distortion-layered soundscapes all more or less sound the same anyway.
Long a fan of the genre, I’ve listened to plenty of bands like this that weren’t worth my time to know that True Widow offer something more than a mundane repackaging of the all-our-songs-sound-the-same motif.
Listening to the alternating bursts of melodic noise and heavy pedal-happy guitar licks move along patiently to singer Dan Phillips’ brooding and sometimes buried beneath the surface (and sometimes backed by a lush female voice) vocals, I’m reminded of the droning guitar-heavy indie-rock I listened to as a teenager to escape mindless overly optimistic pop music.
This isn’t to say, even though bands like My Bloody Valentine, Starflyer 59, Ester Drang and Sonic Youth are at times brought to my mind, that the music is dated or irrelevant. It may or may not win over critics of the genre or even fans of Phillips’ former punk/emo fan-appreciated “pummeling onslaught” of a band, but this self-titled debut captured my undivided attention even after I discovered none of the band’s members had ever shared the stage with Neil Halstead and company in the glory days of the Scottish shoegaze scene.