“Indie” has become a dirty word. Once all sensitive subversion and knowing naughtiness, now, rumour has it, they have “indie” bands at the Olympics. Welcome back, then, The Pastels. The elder statesfolk of British independent music have returned, perhaps not as indie superheroes to rid the world of crimes against guitars, but to remind us of what we’ve been missing.
Slow Summits, their first outing proper since 1997’s Illumination, draws on various intervening theatre, film and collaborative efforts to create a delightful album full of hope, longing, friendship and, above all, glorious sounds. On the surface it feels like simple stuff, looking back fondly to when “you were so young”, as on The Wrong Light. Yet, as with their American cousins Yo La Tengo, there’s none of the world-weariness one might expect of a group in its fourth decade.
Everything is familiar – comfortable, even. On the reassuringly melancholic instrumental Slowly Taking Place, string and wind arrangements soar above chiming guitars. Elsewhere, such as on Check My Heart, the bass dances, rather than fills space. Every song is good, albeit not life-changing. But who needs their life changing by a 30-year-old indie band anyway? It’s just good to have them back.