Drowned In Sound - Loveless Remaster

It’s hard to know where the truth ends and the legend begins with Loveless. There’s so much artifice surrounding the second My Bloody Valentine album that the iconic shoegazers’ failure to come up with a follow-up in 20 years is almost excusable. Formed by Kevin Shields and Colm Ó Cíosóig in the early Eighties, by the early Noughties this pioneering four piece would only be referred to via a tinnitus-induced whisper of critical reverence.

Prior to their 1991 tour de force, My Bloody Valentine had one disavowed mini-album and the transformative Isn’t Anything to their name. With Loveless, Shields elevated his exploration of feedback’s original sin to a place where the primal was firmly a thing of beauty. Over recording sessions totalling a reported £250,000 the reclusive genius managed to abandon the coarse anthemics of his contemporaries Ride and Slowdive for a bittersweet symphony that remains unparalleled. It’s with a bleak sense of irony that old Kev must have accepted Sony’s request to trudge back to the studio and remaster his crowning achievement.

That Shields has attained sweet revenge over his macabre paymasters is indisputable. If delaying the project for a full four years since its first reviews were published wasn’t enough, the lack of dramatic difference between the original and reissue is an absolute triumph. Having been finessed in extreme slow motion, the resulting album has neither been polished to an inch of its life nor been subjected to the Raw Power treatment of slamming the distortion levels into overload. A cynic might even suggest that My Bloody Valentine’s legacy has only been enhanced by such ineffectual dithering. What’s the point in creating something new when you can further embellish your stratospheric stature of years gone by?

To those unfamiliar with Loveless, you’re in for something of a treat. The snare roll and subsequent wall of noise that hails the opening of ‘Only Shallow’ redefined alt-rock at the time and has utterly withstood popular culture’s subsequent ebbs and flows. Many a collective toyed with primal howls of distorted instrumentation before My Bloody Valentine but it’s a testament to their enchanting force that no-one has come close to impersonating them since. To carve a deeply affecting LP out of the same wretched sounds usually fit for three chords and a shouty man with a mohawk clearly takes way too much time and effort.

Since the whole album is essentially a sound collage with each song melting into the next, it’s a bit pointless to pick out a few best bits. The ethereal haze of ‘Blown A Wish’, the wistful crunch of ‘To Here Knows When’ and the fleeting euphoria of ‘Soon’ are all present but this is an album to savour from start to finish. One that reveals a different facet under each wave of its studiously created scuzz.

Naturally, Loveless has its blemishes. ‘Touched’ remains a curio of flaccid synth and nonsense moans from an aching guitar. ‘Sometimes’ drags its muddy fuzz on for an absolute age. This reissue even comes with a second bonus disc which is a remaster of the album from its original master tapes. It sounds nigh on identical to the first disc.

For a record where so much toil was exacted on smoothing over its bruises, it’s these disfigurements that make Loveless so endearing. To claim that My Bloody Valentine went in pursuit of perfection and found it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of this immense band. It’s their flaws which make them so transcendent.


Drowned In Sound - Isn't Anything Remaster

I was five years old when My Bloody Valentine released their debut album Isn’t Anything. I was therefore wholly unaware of the album, the huge critical acclaim it received and the massive influence it had on so many bands around that time (hello shoegazing). But listening to the album almost 25 years and a very light remaster later, it's instantly clear what all the fuss was about and whilst it has been hugely influential on subsequent generations of bands, Isn’t Anything is still so unique and strange that there has never been anything quite like it since.

An anecdote about Isn’t Anything is that during the recording My Bloody Valentine averaged around two hours sleep a night: perhaps this is why the whole album evokes a dream-like state. The record is dense in noise and sounds, however the melodies never get completely lost and Kevin and Bilinda’s dreamy heartfelt vocals sound so innocent and naive even when the songs are evocative of something sexual or anxious or both. There’s an honesty of emotions, accentuated through the denseness and complexity of sounds. What comes through doesn’t feel dense or complex to take in though, it feels instantly understandable.

But maybe all my conclusions about the music were led by the track titles. The album does indeed begin with a song entitled ‘Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)’. From the first second of those pounding, almost to the point of robotic, drums, then the lilting drone of lop-sided music, it’s mesmerising, sensual, innocent, far away, all at the same time.

‘(When You Wake) You’re Still Dreaming’ is full of guitar buzz creating an urgent Sonic Youth-esque sound, the anxiety and drama highlighted as Kevin Shields’ vocals intone “But when you wake you’re still in a dream”. ‘No More Sorry’ is driven by strings and sounds like a dark film score written by Arthur Russell, with Bilinda Butcher’s vocals sounding oh-so sinister. It’s often hard to fully make out the words to My Bloody Valentine songs but the tone and the snatches of sound say it all. In ‘No More Sorry’ it sounds as though something claustrophobic and painful is upon us but the noise is as comforting as an all-enveloping drug.

Making out words is easiest on ‘You Never Should’, which is notable for its pounding drum loops and anthemic-sounding feedback. “But you control these feelings I can’t hide” pretty much sums up the album for me, it feels like some irrepressible outpouring of feelings but in so much more of an innovative, complex and deconstructed way than how that would usually look, i.e. they sound about as far removed from an emo band as you could imagine.

I can bang on about how the record sounds all I like, yet I don’t think I have the vocabulary to describe how Isn’t Anything sounds. Maybe no one does. A case in point of how music can transcend language, just listen and that’s the only way to understand. - Loveless review

My Bloody Valentine's entire career has been aiming toward the perfect guitar noise that Kevin Shields has in his head: a pure, warm, androgynous but deeply sexual rush of sound. Loveless is overwhelming, with Shields and Bilinda Butcher's guitars and voices blending into each other until they become a distant orchestra, the rhythm section striding in majestic lockstep, and occasional bursts of dance rhythms (as on the single "Soon") buoying the live instruments' warp and drift. Furiously loud but seductive rather than aggressive, the album flows like a lava stream from one track into another, subsuming everything in the mix into its blissful roar, and pulsing like a lover's body.

Douglas Wolk - MBV Biography

It took several years for My Bloody Valentine to capture their groundbreaking hybrid of ethereal melodies and studio-orientated, discordant sounds that proved so influential on the independent scene of the late 80s. Their roots lay in Dublin, where singer/guitarist Kevin Shields and drummer Colm O'Ciosoig formed My Bloody Valentine in 1984, before moved to Berlin, to be joined by vocalist Dave Conway (vocals) and Tina (keyboards). A mini-album, This Is Your Bloody Valentine, on the Tycoon label in 1984, made little impression and the band moved to London before recruiting bassist Debbie Googe.

The 12-inch EP Geek! (and the accompanying, 'No Place To Go') emerged on Fever in mid-1986, and, like their debut, was strongly influenced by the Crampsand theBirthday Party. Later that year, the band signed with Joe Foster's fledgling Kaleidoscope Sound label for The New Record By My Bloody Valentine EP, which revealed a new influence, the Jesus And Mary Chain. A switch to thePrimitives' label Lazy, produced 'Sunny Sundae Smile' (1987), which meshed bubblegum pop with buzzsaw guitars. The departure of Conway and the arrival of vocalist Bilinda Butcher signalled a change in musical direction. A move to Creation Records enabled a reappraisal of recording techniques, immediately apparent on the You Made Me Realise EP in 1988.

Enticing melodic structures contrasted with the snarling, almost unworldly collage of noise, developed more fully that year on My Bloody Valentine's pivotal Isn't Anything, from which was drawn the barrage of guitars, 'Feed Me With Your Kiss'. At last, the group had unearthed a completely new sound. Since then, their status has mushroomed. The release of an EP, Glider(1990), alongside a remix from the in-demand DJ Andy Weatherall, flirted with both dance music and the charts. My Bloody Valentine's increasing maturity saw the meticulously produced Lovelessalbum reinforce their reputation as one of the prime influences on the late 80s UK independent scene - one to which groups such asSlowdive, Lushand Chapterhouseowe a great deal. However, the massive studio bills run up during that time saw My Bloody Valentine leave Creation, moving instead to Island Records. At this point, another agonising gestation period was embarked upon, allegedly due to difficulty installing equipment in their own purpose-built studio in south London. Shields, meanwhile, contributed to the 1996 Experimental Audio Research album Beyond The Pale.


My Bloody Valentine @ shoegazers

Without a doubt, one of the most influential bands in the development of the shoegazer sound, My Bloody Valentine developed the template for the guitar wall of sound. Kevin Shields' use of pitch bending, processing and loops and his drive for perfection lead to some of the most innovative music of the time. My Bloody Valentine began life with a rough, garage sound with vocals provided by Dave Conway which belied its later shoegazer incarnation. By 1988, Kevin Shield's guitar work had taken on the fuzzed and treated shape that was to appear in full force on the Isn't Anything album, which demonstrated the musical growth of the band and the benefit of the transfer of vocal duties to Bilinda Butcher. After a three year wait, the release of Loveless marked the summit of My Bloody Valentine's career. Having further expanded on their noise-pop aesthetic, this album was to become both a critical success and inspire the rise of new shoegazer acts. With a hiatus in their career since that point (a later album was apparently shelved), many speculate that My Bloody Valentine is unofficially defunct. Time may tell a different story...

David Wells