My Bloody Valentine - 'Isn't Anything,' EPs, 'Loveless' ReissuesBy Betty Blue
The mythology of MBV is part and parcel of what makes the music so great. The fact that these records took so long to come out the first time, and that the reissues were delayed so many times, only adds to the mystique. My Bloody Valentine is magic, and Kevin Shields is a fucking warlock. He made some kind of deal with Satan or whomever, blessing him with a totally groundbreaking aural vision and the skills to make it real. But the shitty part of the bargain is that Satan cursed him with the most notorious case of perfectionism—bordering on OCD—since Brian Wilson.
Isn’t Anything, the band’s first proper full-length, is the one that the cool kids like to say is their favorite. It totally blew what was happening in 1988 out of the water. Shields and crew made beautiful, evil music. On the opener “Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside),” MBV finds a way to make guitars moan like they’re actually having sex. Of the three reissues, this release has the most song-y songs. They’re more tactile; they seem to make more sense, at least at first. His sing-song vocals betray the fucked-up subject matter (switching between “sueisfine” and “suicide”), and the wall of sound that emerges alternately invigorates and oppresses. It fucks with your head and makes you wonder why you would listen to anything else.
EP’s (1988-1991) collects the material MBV released between their two major albums. Most of these songs have been out of print for decades, but widely circulated in shitty MP3 form. It’s good to see these get serious attention. The songs here are both more punk than their other records, and also hint at the dreaminess to come. Glider was allegedly meant to be its own full-length, and “Feed Me With Your Kiss” is the most beautiful zombie cannibal love song ever written. It’s on these songs that MBV most perfectly articulates the combination of power with autistic attention to sonic detail. The songs keep you at arm’s length, riling you up but not offering release. It’s blue balls in the best way. It’s like embedding money into sidewalk cement; you want it, you know you can’t have it. A handful of new songs absolutely justify the cost of admission and prove (perhaps unnecessarily) that everything Shields touches turns to gold.
But then, obviously, Loveless. The record that predicted both Britpop and rave culture and maybe everything else. Probably no single record has been more influential for rock and roll geeks. There’s not enough that can be said about Loveless. It’s weird; on one hand it totally deserves the remaster treatment and everyone should go out and buy it, but on the other hand, if you don’t already have the record then you’re probably an asshole. For the current moment, it does bear noting that Kevin Shields invented Seapunk. To the extent that there’s a current vogue for 1990s nostalgia among the Tumblr generation, Shields is the grandmother of that, whether or not these kids know it, and so thank god that these records are finally out, again. The euphoria, anxiety, careening, and overpowering rock and roll gets spiritual but not religious, deep with meaning but not dogmatic. You can dance to it, you can fuck to it, you can take drugs to it, you can drive to it, you can die to it. Loveless’ combinations of noise and music are like chemotherapy for silence. The nascent dance music emerging from the songs here, combined with the actual definition of shoegaze, was a totally new sound in 1991 and is still totally new now. If you have a kid, or a niece or nephew, or know a high school graduate, or care about someone who’s growing up into our uncertain world, get them these records and pat yourself on the back.