There’s a reason why The Pastels have been performing together since 1981 and still haven’t ‘made it’ in the conventional sense. It’s not that their style hasn’t evolved over the three decades that they have been performing, rather it’s that they’ve always (un)successfully existed on the edge of discovery, navigating just on the border of the musical styles that evolved over the years since their beginnings, sort of playing it safe while claiming to be revolutionary. You can almost hear the cutting edge of something through several of their tracks from each album and yet it quickly fades as the tracks progress to something utterly ordinary, it’s as though fear of failure has continually kept them from succeeding. Unfortunately, after taking a 16 year break in-between studio albums nothing has changed in their new release, titled Slow Summits, other then their discovery of the contemporary sound of a safety-blanket.
In many ways this album is a great success, albeit one of simple comforts. Everything about this band (attitude, style, name, lyrics, and of course sound) cajoles us into a warm and fuzzy white imaginary world, full of pastel coloured clouds and cuddling bunnies where the only real danger is falling deeper into its loving arms, never to be seen again. And that’s just how frontman Stephen McRobbie, the only remaining member from their formation over 30 years ago, likes it. You really get the sense that McRobbie is making music for himself (and maybe his grandmother) and just doesn’t give a lot of thought to anything else, as though his response to criticism (positive or negative) might simply be “meh….” If their goal is to make bedroom music for a small but devoted fan-base and they can do it their own way, shambling past all the high-profile producers and labels without even noticing their fist-full of cash, then The Pastels have passed with flying (pastel) colours. If you are in the U.K. check-em out (if not maybe they’ll be heading on tour sometime in the next 16 year before their next album, so keep an eye out).