22 years is a long time to wait for an album, just ask My Bloody Valentine fans, who waited almost the exact same amount of time between their 1991 opus Loveless and its highly-anticipated follow-up m b v. It’s impossible not to compare their trajectory to their shoegaze contemporaries, Slowdive, who have also had a 22 year break in between albums – although the same kind of expectation was never placed on them. Whereas Kevin Shields was reportedly feverishly working on MBV’s third album for the whole two decades, Slowdive broke up, worked on other projects, receded into obscurity and seemed to be forgotten about for the same amount of time. Probably nobody was as surprised at their resurgence as they were, their back catalogue gaining traction in the wake of internet music message boards, use of their songs in movie soundtracks, and a whole slew of Souvlaki-indebted bands cropping up in recent years. So, with renewed interest in their old project, what option did they have but to reform and start playing to the biggest crowds they’ve ever played to in their lives?

Reuniting in 2014, and having toured fairly solidly since, the band has reminded crowds all over the world why they are an essential and important band in the history of guitar music. But now comes the hard part: proving that they still have the chops write and record relevant and exciting music in 2017. The practically self-titled m b v managed to root itself in the scorching guitars we loved from My Bloody Valentine’s first two albums, but also push their sound into new and experimental areas thanks to Kevin Shields’ staunch necessity to do something unique. Slowdive’s comeback album is also self-titled, but rather than re-shape their sound, it’s more of a statement that the band can still do exactly what it used to do.

The set lists from their tours of the last few years have drawn largely from the guitar juggernaut second album Souvlaki, with a sprinkling of cuts from their earlier output, and selections from their atmospheric, experimental third album Pygmalion being minimal. Thus, it’s no surprise that Slowdive plays like an album full of tracks ready to slot in alongside those Souvlaki favourites on stage.

One of Slowdive’s trademark features is their way to make large, hulking songs sound weightless, giving the listener themselves easier access into imaginary flight, slow-motion memories or fantastical reveries. On Slowdive there are moments when they create this inter-galactic grace as well as they ever have, but sometimes their desire to reinstate their ethereal prowess can seem a little prescriptive. Opening track ‘Slomo’ has a title that basically tells you what they want you to picture as you listen, but that aside it’s still a magnificent piece. It’s the aural equivalent of watching a large geode magically floating and slowly revolving in the air, catching the light in all kinds of ways; ‘Slomo’ does a perfect job of reinstating Slowdive in 2017. Lead single ‘Star Roving’ is a relatively straightforward jump-to-lightspeed belter that will sit happily alongside ‘Souvlaki Space Station’ in their cosmic live sets.

On ‘Go Get It’ the main hook of “I wanna see it/ I wanna feel it” sounds like a placeholder lyric – Slowdive at its best doesn’t need to tell you to feel. Nevertheless you can connect to the burning desire for freedom expanding out from Neil Halstead’s heart in the searchlight guitars that fire out in all directions as he expresses his needs. ‘No Longer Making Time’ seems like a direct nod to the band’s ageing and the decades spent doing other things. While the titular central lyric is not particularly original, it does tap into something we often feel. The feeling of losing time is made acute through the scouring guitar work underneath, making it seem like the ground is running away before you’ve even had time to take your next step.

Slowdive is at its best when it sounds unlike any other band. The Rachel Goswell-led ‘Don’t Know Why’ is a particular standout, as her heavenly vocals sound like they’re condensed into syrup and being drizzled delicately over the atmospheric guitars and tumbling drums that underline the slithering shape of the song. ‘Everyone Knows’ throws all of their most gorgeous traits into a blender and comes out with a puréed shoegaze scorcher, coming out smooth and vitalising, with Goswell's ghostly voice providing the underlying kick. Closing track ‘Falling Ashes’ is a gorgeous 8-minute unfurling beauty of pianos and aural space, but the repeated phrase “thinking about love” once again seems to directly tell the listener what they want you to feel – fortunately they’ve provided the perfect soundscape for doing exactly that. Then there’s ‘Sugar For The Pill’, which is ever so close to being a bad re-hash of 80s soft rock radio, but is saved by the band’s innate abilities for gorgeous atmosphere, turning it into a subtle but devastating earworm.

Overall Slowdive is a strong return for this now-much-loved band. They’ve delivered on all the levels that fans would have desired: beauty, atmosphere, emotion and grandiosity. Although at times in the lyrics it can get cloying, unoriginal and oversentimental, there is always the soft cushion of the blurred guitars and ribbon-like piano melodies to keep you on board. Slowdive are now a festival-headlining act thanks to their beloved back catalogue, but these songs seem set to please these larger crowds just as much as any of their old favourites.