After Slowdive disbanded in 1994, principals Neil Halstead, Rachel Goswell, and drummer Ian McCutcheon regrouped almost immediately as Mojave 3, releasing their debut Ask Me Tomorrow in 1995. Quiet, elegant, and sparse, it seemed a flipside to Slowdive’s then-final record Pygmalion, sharing its appreciation for space, though trading its electronic DNA for acoustic.
As it turns out, Ask would serve as more of a transitional piece than a blueprint. With the next record, 1998’s Out Of Tune, they bolstered their lineup with guitarist Simon Rowe (formerly of Chapterhouse) and keyboardist Alan Forrester and leaned into the dream-country sound that would be the band’s calling card through their ten-year run. Some might have bemoaned their pivot towards more traditional songwriting and arrangements, but there’s no arguing that Halstead’s writing and lyrical skill grew immensely over the band’s run. And while I missed having Rachel sing lead as much as anyone, having Halstead as primary vocalist bolstered by Goswell’s harmonies made for spine-tingling moments that Slowdive never showcased.
I’m not sure when Slowdive went from being a CD I had in my collection to becoming a musical totem for life, but I do know that I loved Mojave 3 first. I reviewed Out Of Tune for my university newspaper (which is lost to digital dust, probably for the best). Saw them live every chance I got – they were magnificent, the loudest quiet band you’ve ever seen – and while their later albums didn’t quite reach the heights of Out Of Tune or Excuses For Travellers, I’ll defend every one of them as being as vital to the Slowdive story as their own records.
Naturally, people spent most of Mojave 3’s existence yelling out Slowdive requests at their shows, and begging them to re-form. And now that we have Slowdive back and better than ever, we can’t help but miss Mojave 3. Halstead implied as late as 2011 that there was still life in Mojave 3, but that’s almost certainly no longer the case. Given their stage in life and pace of working, asking for concurrent projects is almost certainly too much, but a critical re-evaluation? Vinyl reissues beyond the Sonic Cathedral press of Ask Me Tomorrow? I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. Beggars Arkive exists for a reason.
But at least 4AD saw fit to clean up and post a decent version of the video for the first single from Out Of Tune, which showcased a silly side of the band that you’d never have guessed.