Posts Tagged ‘my bloody valentine’

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My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

It’s tough to talk about this one, not because it seems as if everything that can be said about it has been said, but because there are always new things to say about it. I’m honestly always throwing different adjectives at Loveless. None of them hit the mark. None of them even come close.

Yeah, it doesn’t help people who haven’t heard Loveless when I tell them “look, you just kind of have to listen to it.” And sometimes, “you just have to stick with it.” But there come points of understanding with Loveless where you don’t really have words and then you sort of fathom why it’s so difficult to put into concrete terms.

Sure, My Bloody Valentine “got it” with some of their mid-career EPs. You could hear they knew what they wanted to be, and with You Made Me Realize and Isn’t Anything they locked in and made their ideals secondary, crafting classics of the era. Still, they were getting closer to something. But listening to Loveless after Isn’t Anything or even Glider is still a bizarre departure. The leap in style and composition is jarring, and even though Loveless is a sensible next step, it still sounds like a whole slew of material was skipped on the way to it.

And really, it’s not a stretch at all to say nothing sounds like Loveless. God knows enough people have tried to emulate it; Loveless skyrocketed the sub-genre of shoegaze into the indie stratosphere and people tried to shadow its style for, now, decades. And yet I haven’t heard even one other band attempt to use My Bloody Valentine’s tremolo techniques, deliver half as eclectic of a set or even touch on its emotional impact.

And emotional impact might be its most recognizable quality. Loveless is an incredibly visceral record; even when it sounds wrong it feels right. Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher make their guitars pulse and tremble in a somewhat random fashion, blanketing innovative pop songs with an unpredictable sheet of warmth. The result is incredibly difficult to pin down and yet still completely beautiful and moving.

The irony of its title seems to be the album’s least discussed issue, and my guess is because it is either so obviously ass backwards that it requires no further acknowledgment or because there are subtle implications throughout that Loveless never quite reaches transcendence. Shields himself has claimed that he wishes he could have taken the ideas he presented on Loveless further, but doing so would have ensured that it would never be released, and I have heard this album described as “ugly” countless times. It’s not an easy album, and it is by no means perfect, but its rewards leave us speechless, and that is something that few, if any, other artists have ever truly achieved. There is no album more filled with love.

My Bloody Valentine

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My Bloody Valentine – You Made Me Realise

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Before My Bloody Valentine released their first album, Isn’t Anything, in 1988, they released a boatload of EPs. These EPs had a clear progression, but it was not until the seventh such EP, You Made Me Realise, when the band started to refine themselves into something important, and something more than a cheap pop band. Not that there was anything wrong with Strawberry And Wine and Ecstasy. Although they were deliberately vintage in their songcraft, they were loaded with fantastic pop that was more shimmering than most anything else on the market. In that sense, You Made Me Realise clearly bridges the gap between Ecstasy and Isn’t Anything. My Bloody Valentine are still a pop band, but are trying new and brave things. All the songs here are under four minutes, making the EP feel tightly wound, and each song has something completely different to offer. We still hear the familiar pop gold on the fast, driving Thorn and the closing Drive It All Over Me, two of the catchiest tunes ever put to record. Conversely slow and creamy is the hip hop inspired Slow. It has no chorus, and features one of the first examples of My Bloody Valentines famous tremelo techniques that would be touched on with Isn’t Anything and perfected on Loveless. The title track is three and a half minutes of blistering punk, and is in many respects My Bloody Valentine’s most triumphant single, with a final noise freakout that would swell from forty seconds to twenty minutes by the time it became a live staple for My Bloody Valentine to turn up their amps to ludicrous volumes and bombard their audiences with noise. This noise break may very well have been what inspired My Bloody Valentine to do the great things they did on Isn’t Anything and Loveless. Equally as interesting is the avant garde song Cigarette In Your Bed, which develops from a marching pace to a sprinting final stretch, all while experimenting with a range of guitar techniques. All of this comes together to make an extremely important EP in the history of both My Bloody Valentine and the shoegaze genre, but more importantly one of the most fun and listenable EPs of all time.

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Ten More Reviews

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cocteau Twins – Love’s Easy Tears

Love’s Easy Tears kind of ties Echoes In A Shallow Bay as the Cocteau Twins best EP. It’s killer, that much is obvious; both Orange Appled and Those Eyes, That Mouth are frequent picks for favorite songs by the band, and both are fantastic. Those Eyes, That Mouth is a hypnotic pop love wave, and it’s really hard to get better than that. But Orange Appled does it. The song is just about as good as Carolyn’s Fingers if not better. It has a killer hook and a quenching Guthrie solo alongside absolutely gorgeous vocals, as usual, from Liz Fraser. The title track is also very fun and simple, and Sigh’s Smell of Farewell is nice too, just not as good as the others. In short, this is vintage Cocteau Twins, and some of the best of it. Don’t waste any time; if you are a fan who wants to delve into the EPs, go for this first. First timers should pick it up if nothing else because the songs are fantastic, but it might be better to start with a full album like Treasure or Blue Bell Knoll.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Psychocandy

When The Jesus And Mary Chain first started out, they had an idea, and it was delicious. And usable too, and even better, it could appeal to a mass market. Fans of pop and catchy hooks could appreciate the melodicism, and punk rockers valued the noise and chaos in the sonic density. The idea was to ultimately slam innocent pop tunes into a wall of sonic guitar sheen and noise, and the result is somewhat reminiscent of the albums title. It is candy and very sweet candy, that much is true. But it is candy in the most perverse and guilty way possible. Just listen to any track on this album and you will hear the utterly ingenious pop flowing through different parts in ways that even The Beatles would be somewhat impressed with if the production was smoother. But it’s not. It’s both rough and smooth, ugly and beautiful. These tunes are constantly accompanied by a sonic wall of meaty feedback, guitar shine, and occasionally the addition of a disturbing but fun sound effect like a hushed scream of agony in the background or an unintentional burst of noise. And it just keeps coming. Every track on this album is priceless in some way, from the pretty surf rock ballad Some Candy Talking to the relaxed rock of Taste The Floor to the pretty Just Like Honey and even the garden variety punk of Never Understand. Each song has an almost sinisterly simple beat and a simple chord progression. Even skilled musicians will sit and think to themselves, “hey, I could have written this.” But then they will realize that they so couldn’t have. What’s really amazing about this is how none of the songs have choruses or verses…a melody or tune is never used for more than a half minute, after which a completely new and impressive hook is thrown the listeners way. It’s candy, delicious sweet candy, and only a skilled band could have made it. It would take a little while for The Jesus And Mary Chain to reach a wider market and truly gain respect, but this is the start of something beautiful and easily The Chain’s best album.

Led Zeppelin – Coda

This is really not as bad of an album as you have been told it is. If you would even consider it an album. We should really be thankful of Jimmy Paige and company for releasing this after our dear John Bonham died, although it was more of a contractual thing than an act of kindness, but in any case this wraps up just about everything the band had to release save a good live album which would take a few decades to surface. So this is a b-sides collection. It doesn’t do anything more or less, and considering only a select few album tracks by the band are ever bad, this isn’t a huge blemish on the bands discography. We’re Gonna Grove is a pretty immediate winner, and it goes back to the blues rock that the band started out with. Wearing And Tearing is actually also very good, an answer to the seventies punk movement. Beyond that, Bonzo’s Montreux is an interesting drum-fest and Poor Tom is among the best of the bands Led Zeppelin 3 material, and most likely the best on the album. Yeah, of the two sides, half the material is bad, but not disposable. For a band where every scrap is a treasure, this is really pretty good. But only for the hardcore Zep fan.

My Bloody Valentine – Only Shallow Single

The Only Shallow single from My Bloody Valentine is actually a promo on vinyl that subscribers to certain French magazines acquired in a 1992 issue. The single contains three great songs, the first of which is Only Shallow, one of the better songs from Loveless. The song is truly single material, and it’s huge sound and wonderful melody are reasons enough to have made this single at all. But two b-sides are also included. Sugar is a MBV classic and one of the bands rarest songs. Instrumental B is also very good, and was released prior to this single on the Instrumentals promo a few years earlier, accompanying the Isn’t Anything release. A true rarity for hardcore MBV fans; it’s an antique, but it’s probably worth a ton and well worth the price if just to hear Sugar.

Nine Inch Nails – With Teeth

Back in 2005, Nine Inch Nails returned from a six year fallout with the fifth studio album and nineteenth Halo, With Teeth. I remember driving home from the record store and listening to this for the first time, and I was generally impressed. This album does get a lot of shit though, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Collectively I suppose it is kind of weak, but this easily delivers some of Reznor’s finest material since The Downward Spiral. The sound still echoes of The Fragile’s reconstructive cool production, but the album still stands alone with a good amount of success. It’s a compelling enough listen to make fans happy, and the songs are very good. Many songs are characterized by heavy riffing, especially the grooving The Collector and a popular live/club pick, The Hand That Feeds. But most of the songs are very individual, especially Only, Every Day Is Exactly The Same (a personal favorite and subject of it’s own remix EP), and Beside You In Time. The disk ends on Right Where It Belongs, a very Hurt-esque ballad that deserves some respect. The problems are minimal, and this is about as consistent as The Fragile, simply one disk less. If this is the future of Nine Inch Nails, I’m happy. Without a doubt this is the worst album NIN has produced thus far, but considering this album is very good, I think that says a lot for how much talent Reznor actually has. A good one, hardly disposable like most people will tell you.

Singles Soundtrack

Singles really wasn’t that great for a date flick, but it had a pretty good soundtrack and at least captured the look and part of the feel of the 1990s Seattle grunge scene. In retrospect, this soundtrack is probably less disposable than the movie itself. The soundtrack is mostly comprised of various rarities from some of Seattle’s most popular rock acts, save the conspicuous absence of any Nirvana. And there were some songs from the movie that didn’t make it here, namely Alice in Chains’ It Ain’t Like That and Soundgarden’s Spoonman. But hell, you probably already had those songs if you were ever interested in this disk in the first place. For that reason, the inclusion of Would? and I Nearly Lost You is probably unnecessary to the grunge fan, but both songs are fantastic in any case. Other highlights include some contributions from former Replacement John Westerberg, some really good Pearl Jam rarities, Soundgarden’s Birth Ritual (one of Chris Cornells best vocal performances), and a great Mother Love Bone take. It’s more of an odds and ends collection, but that is actually good, and you would stand well to pick this up if you like grunge or 90s alt rock.

But come on, theres no version of the movies original novelty “Touch Me I’m Dick.” That would have been a hilarious inclusion.

Malory – Not Here, Not Now

A decent shoegaze album, Not Here Not Now delivers the dreamy goods in as good of a way as it can. The problem is probably a lack of originality, because the band rips on Slowdive pretty relentlessly. This can only be complained about so much considering Slowdive are one of the worthiest bands to rip on in the genre, but the sampling only makes Not Here, Not Now more easy to call an attempted Souvlaki clone. If anything, the acquisition of this album would be justified enough by the opening Falling, an absolutely gorgeous dreamy instrumental that is nothing like anything else on the record. But the rest of the album doesn’t exactly continue with this same style and very obviously draws influence from Slowdive in just about every way. But in the same way Kevin Shields would probably be proud of some of Pia Fraus’ escapades, Neil Halstead probably wouldn’t have too much of a problem with someone drawing heavily from his style if it is done this tastefully. Dany, Sunday Nights, and Spring are all gorgeous songs, but once again, you can’t help but feel like you are being lied to. Everything down to the male/female vocals, soft beats, and emotional guitars, this practically IS Slowdive, the only difference being the bands serious problems with concluding their songs which Slowdive can conversely do very well; the most pretty of these songs just seem to drone with no conclusion when they were clearly within sight. It’s good, but uninspired and unfortunately completely disposable.

My Bloody Valentine – Olympia, Paris

While every My Bloody Valentine bootleg can be considered a treasure, this may well be the bands worst available bootleg that I have heard, and extremely overrated. The band is simply not in fantastic playing condition at this show, for one thing. But the real killer is the fact that the recording quality is atrocious. This bootleg is really almost unlistenable, but it does win in one respect on one song. The version of To Here Knows When here is good if you crank it up to ludicrous volumes and appreciate it for what one of MBVs greatest charms is, a wall of beautiful sound. However, this is really the only time that this bootleg is worth anything.

Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports

The ambient breakthrough of Brian Eno, Music For Airports was the blooming result of years of ideas and contemplation. Eno first honed his pop skills with the utmost reliability, and then took a turn for the experimental. The new idea was mood music, relaxing pieces that could be used in films or to make someone feel a certain way with just instruments. The new direction was explored with great success on Another Green World, again employed on Music For Films, and completely fleshed out into an ambient masterpiece with Music For Airports. The idea was simple, and utterly ingenious. Eno had been in an airport and had a bad experience witht he music playing, and decided to make a record of music built specifically for being played for the enjoyment of a wide array of people in public places. The soul of the music is relaxation and sheer beauty, but when the music is analyzed as closely as Eno explains it, it only makes more and more sense. The music had to be long so that it wasn’t changing too much on the listener, easily interrupted by P.A. systems, higher or lower than voice frequency so to not be a nuisance, and ever changing to keep the listeners interest. And beyond that, the music also had to be non intrusive a nd passive in the background of a situation, and also accessible to a wealth of people. While this is not the first album to employ modern ambient sounds, it is surely one of Eno’s most influential and enjoyable ambient works.

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Considering the direction that it’s predecessor Bryter Layter took, Nick Drake’s last album is at first seemingly a step backward. The complexities of Nick Drake’s other work has been conspicuously stripped down to it’s core, a brutally honest album consisting of little more than Drake’s voice and a skillfully played acoustic guitar. And even more touching is how sudden and momentous it feels. And yet Pink Moon doesn’t play like anything close to a suicide note or a final farewell so much as a deeply personal and trusting letter from a friend. Aftergiving this gem enough time to unfold, every song can reveal a subtle relaxing beauty. The title track is fantastic if not a little misleading, projecting the definitive late night chill image. But as the album goes on, the music stays revealing and yet surprisingly simple. Only someone such as Nick Drake could possibly say so much with only a few chord strums like he does on Horn or discuss mixed feelings like on Parasite. In many ways, this is as close to Nick Drake as you will ever get, and as moving of an album as it is relaxing. Truly a classic album, taking the best of the folk genre and it’s most important aspects and bringing nothing more than poetry and personal taste.

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My Bloody Valentine – You Made Me Realise [EP]

Friday, February 23, 2007

You Made Me Realise

You know what, fuck it. I do feel a bit silly and obsessive. I realize that most of what I listen to and talk about nowadays is My Bloody Valentine. But I honestly don’t care. They are already one of my absolute favorite bands, and if there was ever an EP that I have not given enough attention, it’s the You Made Me Realise EP, or for those of you who are just sticklers for American linguistics, the You Made Me Realize EP. Released at virtually the same time as Isn’t Anything, this EP was in the same way nothing short of a miracle. And by that I mean, during the recording of both this EP and Isn’t Anything, the band was frisked into the studio and cranked out solid gold in a matter of days. You Made Me Realise is a five song molotov of all the best aspects of MBV, from the jangley pop of their earlier days to the luscious mystery of the Isn’t Anything era and the etherealness of the Loveless era. It’s got everything. Loveless may be the best MBV album, but You Made Me Realise pulls no punches and ends up just as consistant as Loveless. The fact of the matter is, most of the stuff on this EP dwarfs the stuff on Isn’t Anything. Each track is a hand picked treat. You need this EP… It might just be the best EP ever.

The title track kicks of the disk, and rightfully so, because by this point it was the best damn thing the band ever wrote. YMMR is a chainsaw punk explosion more uptempo and full of energy than any of the bands other material. Colm’s drums are in full force and the guitars are rhythmic and exciting. The male/female vocals are as always perfect and the mood is very vital and momentous. When they scream “go go go,” you’d best be hauling ass. The solo kicks in at just the right time, with a spacey little portion leading into what the fans could only call “it” at live shows. “It” is also known as the “holocaust.” What it is is the band basically cranking up their amps as loud as possible and cranking out the same chords for as long as it would take to get the audience to respond positively. But this was a bit difficult, considering it was a deafening sound that probably shouldn’t have been legal at the time. It would, in fact, sometimes last for over a half hour and Mike McGonnigal likened it to sticking your head into a jet engine in 33 1/3. It may seem like a short outing on the record, but live, this was a force to be reconed with. I think the point of it was that when you listened to it live, it would just hurt like hell at first, but after a while your mind would almost make up some awesome melody and play it over in your head after a while, probably due to delirium. This is a choice song and one of MBVs best.

Next up is Slow, and while it is clearly the EPs weakest track, it still ended up being a live staple until the bands lengthy demise. Mike McGonnigal interviews Kevin Shields about this song in 33 1/3, and he mentions, and you can clearly hear this, that the song is almost hip hop influenced. It moves along at a sexual chugalong pace and doesn’t really have a chorus or verse. The lyrics are very openly sexual and talk about licking and sucking and stuff. It’s actually an enjoyable track if you get to know it well enough. It just comes off as very boring, but this is one of the more odd tracks My Bloody Valentine ever did, as far as song construction goes, but the background wall of chords is really well built here. It’s true to it’s title; this is the slowest track on the EP, but it’s not quite boring. It just doesn’t go anywhere, that’s all. After three minutes, the track is awkwardly ended.

The third song, Thorn, is the exact opposite of Slow. It’s a conventional pop jangle that goes at a pretty quick pace, so putting it next to Slow was probably actually a good idea. I don’t know why this wasn’t played more live… It has one of the bands finest verses ever and it features Kevin Shields in his vocal prime. It is a very touching and romantic song that makes very good use of Colm’s fantastic underrated drumming style, specifically the mildly offbeat drumrolls which he utilizes every so often. This is sort of a middle ground between Ecstacy and Wine and Isn’t Anything. It has the Isn’t Anything chord wall but also the irresistable hook. You really have to hear this to believe it, it’s just a great sunny pop treasure.

But then there is Cigarette In Your Bed. Which is a huge contrast, as it is conversely very serious and easily the strangest thing the band wrote by that time. Colm’s Drums sound like a restless funeral march that then burst into hard hitting thrashes during the time where the guitars pick up and play out some really strong biting chords. The mood is melancholy and dreamy, the vocals bizaare and possibly referring to some odd fetish of sorts. It may be strange, but it ends perfectly, with the tempo really picking up and revealing a vocal hook that makes the listener kind of go “oh, now I get it.” Hynotic, insatiable, and washed in great sound, this is a wonderful MBV gem.

Thankfully it is followed up sucessfully, by a track that actually matches if not trumps the opener, Drive It All Over Me. This song, like Cigarette, features Belinda alone on vocals, and damn can she sing. This is easily my favorite MBV hook of all time, and the song is the most conventional yet irresistable. The lyrics are truly ingenious, and they speak of apathy, loneliness, and a cheery indifference; “Travel always gets me/Get in the car and drive it all over me.” The melodic vocals are totally put in the forefront, but the guitars are simple and nice while the bassline is one of Deb’s best. She is actually a very underrated bassist at all. Shit, everyone in MBV is underrated at their trades. Kevin Shields is a guitarist/musician that should be legendary, and the Googe/O’Ciosoig combo is just fantastic. Belinda is of course the icing on the cake, a decent guitarist, pretty face, and wonderful vocalist. This is essentially MBV going “fuck it, let’s just make some really great pop.” Simply wonderful.

I know I’m repetetive. I know this is short. But I always look for an excuse to whore off this band and talk about them, so I guess I’ll be content with doing this here.

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My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless 33 1/3

Thursday, February 15, 2007

For those of you who don’t know, the 33 1/3 series is a successful line of short books devoted to the making of certain popular and acclaimed albums. Considering almost nothing significant has come out of the My Bloody Valentine front in the past ten years or so and close to no news on Kevin Shields has surfaced in months (save an interview in Magnet earlier in the year), this is news, and I picked it up without exactly knowing what the series had to offer. I will say that for fans, this is a must have. What the book does is outline what went on with the making of Loveless, a classic album that broke a ton of ground and ended up being a staple of popular music. If you haven’t heard it, you really need to. Like it or hate it, I really do believe it is essential listening. The book is nice, but to be honest it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting a full length book when in fact the 33 1/3 series is comprised of fairly small coffee-table books a little over one hundred small pages in length. I was also expecting the book to be filled with stuff that mostly audiophiles would be interested in, like production techniques and effects and stuff. I was also surprised in that area, as the book ended up being less technical stuff and more technique, ideas, and principles involved with the record. That may have not been the goldmine that more avid and knowledgeable fans were expecting, but I’m honestly not an audiophile so I do feel like my time wasn’t wasted. Where would I be able to learn more about sound quality and technique and such? I have no idea.

It was Valentine’s Day a few days ago and I actually woke up to this present on my kitchen table. My mother got it for me as a present (AAAAWWWWWW), and it was Valentine’s Day after all, so I decided to read it when I got back from school and then give Loveless another listen for it’s special day. After reading the book, the sound seemed to make more sense, which may be good or very, very bad. Part of what makes Loveless so enjoyable is how big of a mystery it is, not so much in production but in it’s subtleties and wonderful details. Every time you listen to that record, be it in a new place or not, you learn something new about it, even moreso if you really crank the volume. But it is kind of better to not think about it so much, so it’s one thing to not be educated enough about it and something else to go “hey, that’s that certain effect.” Luckily, the book doesn’t suck the life out of the album. It does reveal some certain effects, a comfortable amount. It does clear up a lot of the myth around the album and seperates truth from fiction once and for all. The biggest fiction that has surrounded the album for fifteen years is that Loveless bankrupt Creation and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. The truth is that Creation was already broke and strung out on drugs by the time Loveless got started. Loveless may have cost a lot of money, but really it wasn’t as much as people usually think, and a lot of the problems arose from Creation sending them to different studios at a really fast pace so that it just took a lot of time to get settled and get things done comfortably.

Another myth is that any given track on Loveless has tons of guitars, and this just isn’t true. Most songs on Loveless only have two guitars on them. What makes them sound so huge and wonderful is the technique employed by Shields and the awesome use of the tremelo arm, which by no means is easy to use. Only Shields and Butcher could really get the hang of it. And it’s true, Shields was a perfectionist in the sound quality department, but honestly, the album came out close to perfect and no doubt extremely close to what Shields wanted, so it’s all good. The book elaborates on the studio experience pretty vaguely, actually, because it is extremely hard to judge where the recordings took place because they were bouncing around too much. But all the difficulties are made clear, and all the people credited to production get a little bit of light shed on them, which is nice. And all of it is reliable too, as the writer actually got in contact with three out of four members of the band. There are a few strange little mistakes though. There seems to be some confusion on Dave Conway’s name, as well as sequence involved with certain tracks and the EPs. Tiny little things. Chapters are divided up nicely, with each chapter being devoted to certain topics like vocals, guitar effects, sleep deprivation, and the state of the band members. A lot of background information is provided too, so it’s not just all Loveless but also other information from the preceeding and following eras that bring lots of stuff out of obscurity. He could have easily screwed that up by not giving adequate background information, but the scene is set pretty well here.

What I did have a problem with was some of the personal opinions of the author. It’s not like it’s their job to agree with me, but on some levels I felt like my own opinions were being encroached upon. Especially with the short outline of the album he gives early on. It’s not like I disagree with most of the stuff he says, but he does kind of dismiss “I Only Said” as a weaker track, which is totally not true. And he kind of injects his own life and experiences into the book a bit much, interjecting now and then with his own anecdotes. But that is probably good, as he is a veteran of the time who saw the band live on numerous times, making his vivid description of some certain live aspects all the more real. Another problem I had was the post script. The last part makes a fair bit of sense, but for the most part it’s an advertisement for Rafael Toral’s album Wave Field. Which I guess is alright and I won’t complain because it is a post script, after all, and not really part of the book. It just seemed a bit unnecessary. But very few stones are left unturned in this book and I really appreciate that, as there is just so much myth surrounding the record.

Almost all of that myth is cleared up here, and for those of you who think you know enough anyway, a lot of the book is scattered excerpts of a recent interview with Shields, so that and the cheap price should be enough to secure the purchase. This is probably the most definitive and well compiled source of reliable information that you can get on Loveless, and fans will love it. It’s a quick but informative read that reveals a lot in the way of production, musical theory, and personal affairs of the band. And yes, it does shed quite a bit more light on the futures of the band members, in a fairly positive way too. Loveless is an album that really needs this kind of book, and it’s already helping me to appreciate the album more because I do feel a lot more knowledgeable about one of my favorite albums. Which by the way really does sound completely different at full blast, which I learned not too long ago. This book is nice and fun to read, but don’t let it make you sit by your hi-fi studiously analyzing anything. That’s totally missing the point. It just gives you quite a bit more to dabble in, presents a tidal wave of great facts, and significantly eases the pain of the abscence of any follow-ups.

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My Bloody Valentine – Things Left Behind

Saturday, December 2, 2006

To be honest this collection is well due, even if it is just a bootleg, considering it’s already hard as hell to get My Bloody Valentines earlier EPs. It might as well be hard as hell just to get one disk, and by hard as hell, I mean expensive to import. It was done in Japan I believe, which makes no sense to me, but the catch of this release is that it’s a bulk of the earlier tracks the band made all in one place, all remastered. Of course it is pretty easy to argue that MBVs material got pretty reliably better as they went along, it is still essential for fans to get a look at the bands earlier stuff, if not just for the desire for history but because some of it is actually good.

To be exact, the tracks that are on here are the Geek, the The New Record By My Bloody Valentine, Sunny Sundae Smile, and Strawberry Wine EPs, all remastered. The more I think about it, the more I really believe that MBV got better as they went along. I think you could almost maybe go out on a limb and say that they peaked with Tremolo, the final EP, but obviously Loveless is the most precious release, and that came second to last. Conversely, the bands first EP, This Is Your Bloody Valentine, is sort of a punch to the kidney. The sound basically reflects a high school band that can actually write their own material, but doesn’t know how to make their own style, so they rip on The Cramps. Fuck, if you have a song named “Don’t Cramp My Style” and you sound like this, it’s pretty obvious. And yet theres really no reason to listen to listen to that EP for the music or anything, because if you wanted to listen to a Cramps lookalike, why don’t you just fucking listen to The Cramps and call it a day? It’s history, I’ll give it that, and considering that the disk still had a great deal of time in which to fill stuff, it wouldn’t have been criminal to include the seven track TIYBV, but it still sounds like something the cat gacked up most of the time, and speeding up any of original vocalist Dave Conways horrid vocals would surely result in the sound that an adolescent Alvin the chipmunk would make if he got a softball driven into his nads at 80 mph.

There is a growth between TIYBV and Geek, but it’s not too big. Instead of being treated to seven songs worth of shite, you get four songs worth of something bearable. It’s still heavily influenced by The Cramps, but instead it’s something that fans of the aformentioned band might want to check out. Which is only saying so much, because I’m not really a huge fan of The Cramps, but they have their own respectable and distinct sound. It’s just easily immitated. No Place To Go is sort of a rockabily thing, and it’s actually kind of cool. Kind of. Not that anything on this EP is really anything to scream about. Except maybe Sandman Never Sleeps. I’m inclined to scream about that, mostly at Dave Conway. But it is a funny tune, just because it’s so bad. It’s comforting to know that the band went so far from here, really. And to be honest, if you’re into The Cramps or very early JAMC, the first two tracks might be enjoyable. Not that memorable though.

And then there is The New Record By My Bloody Valentine, which actually isn’t bad at all. To be honest, until I got this a few days ago, I had never heard anything before Sunny Sundae smile besides some live takes and sound clips of the really early stuff, so this was new studio material to me. I’ll say right off the bat that this is the first good EP the band ever made. It’s just so confused though, so cutely confused. The band has now dropped their obsession with you know what band and have moved on to straightforward pop. And the bands inconsistencies have been outlined already by the fact that they still have not produced a full scale album, and they wouldn’t for two years or so, in which time they would crank out numerous EPs. Perhaps this was a lack of funds or simply lack of a grounded direction, or possibly even a lack of any obligations, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s a decent EP with some decent songs on it. The band is still far from bliss, but all four songs are enjoyable if you listen to them lightheartedly. Lovelee Sweet Darlene and On Another Rainy Saturday are my personal favorites. But it’s still apparent that the songs don’t really have the pop sensibility that would soon be gained.

And then there is Sunny Sundae Smile, which is in a way the soft transition into the band doing great things. For one thing, Dave Conway is still in the mix. Which really at this point isn’t so bad. This is pretty much the only release where his voice can actually do good, maybe even great things once or twice, but it’s apparent that he really didn’t have any career going for him or anything. The songs on this EP are all great and priceless, really the first great EP the band had. Each song is drawn out in a very structured pop context, with the then famous JAMC noise film in the background blanketing it all. The music stays true to the title and is reminiscent of teenage days of fun. The title track is probably the best one on the album and is very memorable, but once again, all of the tracks are great. Essentially what has happened here is that the rest of the band has moved on to the jangle pop and sweet pop tunes that would be presented in the Ecstacy And Wine era, just with Conway on vocals. Thankfully, his vocals don’t get in the way or anything here. This is an essential EP to have, because it’s easily the best pre-Belinda Butcher release there is. I already had this EP before I got this collection, and I can vouch for the fact that it sounds better than the original masters. Not by much though, almost unnoticable in fact, but those with a trained ear can surely hear a side by side difference. These songs sound glossier and much better, and although it might not be essential for casual collectors to get these remastered EPs just for the sound quality, hardcore collectors will enjoy this change. But once again, it’s not that big of an improvement. It’s just surprising that it’s an improvement at all.

The addition of the Strawberry Wine EP is a bit of a strange gift. Granted, it’s remastered, once again with a very small margin of improvement, but it was a mystery in the first place why this is here anyway. The Ecstacy And Wine release can be found not only on CD but also on vinyl for pretty cheap, and that contains the Strawberry Wine and Ecstacy EPs. So this is not a very difficult to acquire release at all, while The New Record By and Sunny Sundae Smile are hell to track down. Of course getting the original release of Strawberry would be tough, but the songs are not hard to acquire at all. The songs are great though and mark the first release after the reconfigured lineup. By this point in the bands history, all of the band members that would last until the bitter drawn-out end are here: guitarist/vocalist Kevin Shields and drummer Colm O’Ciosoig are still around, and now we have the added bassist Deb Googe and guitarist/vocalist Belinda Butcher. I’m not exactly sure if Deb Googe was included earlier on than this, but regardless of those circumstances, the gangs all here. And this was a pretty interesting shift, allowing not only a female vocalist into the fray but one that is also a guitarist paving the way four layered guitars in the future. This opened many doors for the band, as exemplified with the EPs title track Strawberry Wine, arguably one of the bands best songs ever. The song is a luscious layered rural pop harvest piece, also very reminiscent of the far east in many ways. You can hear Colm in the background with a stomping beat and also the signature unmistakeable drum rolls. And we now have Kevin Shields in the vocal upfront, and Belinda harmonizing all the way through. The results are fantastic. And the two other tracks on the EP are just as good. Never Say Goodbye is a heartwarming piece very simmilar to Strawberry Wine in Feeling, and Can I Touch You is classic pop. Great EP, and the remaster is appreciated, but just a very strange thing to include.

All in all, this is a release that pretty much gives you what you expect. It’s not an official release or anything and pretty much a bootleg, so it’s not from the main mans direction, but it’s still a release nonetheless. And considering that it’s not that hard to acquire, you might be better off than hunting down all the other goodies seperately. They are remastered so that is nice, but once again, the inclusion of the Strawberry Wine EP is confusing and probably unnecessary. Even with that in the mix, the disk still ends under fourty minutes. It just seems to me like they could have crammed in TIYBV and all of it’s shitty glory just because fans who want the early EPs don’t care about quality of music when they are looking for history. And it is interesting to hear Kevins guitarwork in such an early stage anyway. If there was that much space left, and I’m sure Kevin wouldn’t even want to get anywhere close to a lawsuit that would associate him with that shit, TIYBV should have been in here, not that I would really want to listen to it too much. Truth be told, this bootleg has almost all great songs, and it fulfills it’s promises. It leaves the MBV catalogue in a little less obscurity, a much appreciated effect.

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My Bloody Valentine – Glider[EP]/Tremolo[EP]

Saturday, August 19, 2006

As far as influence goes in popular music, people usually think of The Beatles, The Who, and Led Zeppelin above all else. But when it comes to modern music, people usually think Sonic Youth, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Smiths, and maybe even Nirvana. But My Bloody Valentine isn’t always credited with the praise it deserves. In the same way that Daydream Nation and Psychocandy changed the prospects of recording, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine did too, and it spawned a new era of beauty and noise. The problem with Loveless is obvious; the album ended the bands career because of how simply good it was, and the perfectionism of Kevin Shields refused to release an album that didn’t trump it. Naturally, this would be a tough feat. So when people pick up Isn’t Anything and Loveless and end up loving them, well, where would they go next anyway? It’s not easy to be fan of a band that had only two full albums. If I had to direct these confused people in one direction I guess it would be in the direction of Ecstacy and Wine, the lovely Psychocandy inspired compilation of two EPs that arguably has no bad songs at all. But most of where fans would want to be directed are the two EPs from the Loveless era. Because it’s disappointing to know that Loveless was never followed up, and if you want a taste of something simmilar to Loveless, getting these two EPs is about as good as getting half of a completely different CD, and while that CD would not be quite as good as Loveless, it would still be fantastic.

Much like Isn’t Anything, Loveless had two EPs that accompanied it. Glider came before Loveless, and Tremolo after. Both have things in common and things different with eachother and Loveless, but it is pretty obvious that both are essential for My Bloody Valentine fans. First off, both albums have a track from Loveless. I guess the only difference in that respect is that the track featured on Tremolo has a different ending, but that’s about it. Both EPs have three b-sides as well, and all of the songs are reminiscent of Loveless in some way. I guess the difference is, and respectfully so considering the sequence in which they were released, Glider sounds like it leans more towards Isn’t Anything with the production of Loveless, and Tremolo sounds more like Loveless with a little bit of a new direction.

Glider

I’m not sure how the band got the inspiration that led them towards the sound that Loveless has, but this sort of shows the transition. I’m not big on Isn’t Anything even though I understand it was very important, but regardless of the renegade misorganization of the album, it is a tad too muddy and unorganized for me. But what this EP has is the Loveless production and instrumentation with songs that are more reminiscent of the Isn’t Anything era. It’s good simply because it is what fans would want from a release preceeding Loveless by only a few months, and they wouldn’t have known quite what the new record would do.

The track taken from the album is Soon, which is arguably it’s best, a poppy little dance beats with bells and soaring guitars. But the rest of the songs on the album, the b-sides, are not close to as good. They are rather delicious if you are open minded and understand that My Bloody Valentine is not very conventional at all, but they are weird, no one is going to pretend otherwise. The title track is hardly even a song so much as a switch between two chords with interesting sound effects for a few minutes. It’s not very accessible, but it is pretty nonetheless if you understand MBV and already enjoyed Loveless. The next song, Don’t Ask Why, isn’t very layered, but it has a floating mass of sound effects that carry over a hushed tambourine and complement some nice poetry from Kevin Shields. And finally there is Off Your Face, which is probably the most accessible b-side here. It is a lovely little love tune that not only explores lust like many MBV songs do, but also flat out love. It’s a perfect example of the band finally learning what those quick drumrolls that they did years ago song after song really mean.

It’s a fun little EP, and it’s essential next to Tremolo if you are a big My Bloody Valentine fan. I’m not quite sure I’ve heard the whole story, but I think more tracks were actually recorded for Glider for it to be a full album but were later scrapped. An interview with Kevin Shields in 2003 stated that the members were thinking about entering the studio again to redo those tracks. But don’t quote me on it. But the truth hurts… It gets the crap kicked out of it by Tremolo.

Tremolo

If you are looking for some kind of direction to which the band would have gone after Loveless considering that the band hasn’t made another album yet since the 1991 epic. It is far more consistant than Glider and much much better, and it arguably features songs that are good enough to be on Loveless.

The song taken from Loveless is the atmospheric little love musing To Here Knows When. There is a slight difference between this and the album version, and that is that the ending is a tad different, but it’s not anything worth sweating. The core of the song is exactly the same until the last thirty seconds. It’s a great song. Next comes Swallow, which is easily the caliber of any of the songs on Loveless. It almost sounds a little eastern with it’s upbeat pace, bells, and vibrant flute-like instrument that takes the wheel. Of course the layered guitars are here that make the signature sound that the band revolutionized. Belinda Butcher is a fantastic vocalist and her talent really works here. Her words are always relaxing and reassuring, unlike Kevin Shield’s, although he isn’t a bad singer either. If I had to make a guess as to where the band would go after Loveless, Swallow is either as close to that sound as we will hear for a long time or just completely reminiscent of Loveless on it’s own. Honey Power is perhaps a little more layered and loud, but still sweet as candy. Belinda once again proves herself to be a really talented vocalist. And then there is Moon Song which MBV fans hail as both good and very strange. It is a hypnotic wall of sound if I have ever heard one. It has some bongos that complement the twinkling sound well. Think a night in a tropical ring of islands looking at the moon. That’s about what this captures.

So it’s way better than Glider in it’s own way, but I wouldn’t put down Glider either. It just stays more consistant.

In the end, if you liked Loveless, you would like these EPs. They are pretty much the only way that ones thirst can be quenched for more Loveless. Neither of them are extremely rare like the bands earlier EPs, so… If you are going to get brand new copies of each, I’d go to amazon.com and check out some of the suppliers there and you could get new copies of both for ten a shot and used maybe around five. It’s well worth it and they aren’t that rare. Good purchases and great music from a great and tragically underrated band. And if you have never heard Loveless, check out the review that I wrote for it a month or two ago. Just dig around in the archives a little and you will find it.