It’s been twenty-two years since seminal Irish shoegaze act My Bloody Valentine released anything even resembling music(Kevin Shields’ solo ear-death noises don’t count as music) in spite of claiming to have all but finished their planned third album.
But now, finally, they appear poised to return, and when you factor in Shields’ crippling perfectionism twenty-two years almost seems on schedule. It was supposed to happen in December of last year but, when that was announced at the start of that very month everyone already knew it was a ridiculous claim from a band whose lavish sounds are matched only by their spending, they basically sank Creation Records with 1991’s Loveless. To celebrate the possible, actual release of their third album this year here is a beginner’s guide to all you need to hear to prepare yourself:
You Made Me Realise –
You Made Me Realise makes for a nice inaccessible start to a nice inaccessible band, it’s the song that started it all and the song that sums up the almost nightmare-ish experience of My Bloody Valentine live. Known to be protracted for dozens of minutes at a time whilst they play one note at literally deafening volumes it is a defining song of their early EP’s. Just remember to bring earplugs and some extra socks, for many shall be rocked off.
Sex. About half of their catalogue is made up of very, very thinly veiled allusions to it and few do it better than this. Crunching guitars, lyrics that are at times just so crap they’re funny, so-so vocals and weird, swirling sounds you can’t quite put your finger on. Pretty much sums up early My Bloody Valentine. Brilliant in its own inexplicable way regardless though. Not one to play around the parents though, or mouth the words to on the bus, which I definitely never did absent-mindedly whilst an old man stared.
Soft As Snow(But Warm Inside) –
I told you they were all about sex. But the opener to debut album Isn’t Anything is more significant for laying down the blueprint for the wailing guitars and lush textures of Loveless than it is for its fairly juvenile lyrics. Note that Kevin Shields hasn’t learned he can’t sing here, he tries quite hard and fails even more so. Still, the basic, airy Belinda Butcher led vocal style that dominates Loveless makes an appearance here.
All I Need –
Soft as Snow was close but this is Loveless. Hidden away in the middle of their debut album is this song, a pitch-perfect indicator of where they were going. An ethereal, dreamy mesh of guitar and breathed vocals that sounds like absolutely nothing else on the album, in fact it’s arguably even more extreme in sound than Loveless.
See, more sex. Again they dress it up in staggeringly beautiful sounds, especially from Belinda Butcher, those mesmerising African drums and brass and the arcing guitar. I realise I’ve just named every element of the song but that’s beside the point. Part of the Tremolo EP released just prior to Loveless, this is one quarter of possibly the finest EP ever crafted. Though, technically, it actually contains eight songs as each ends with a hidden instrumental track, those crafty geniuses.
Only Shallow –
A thunderous opener that sounds out a serious shift into something truly unique. From the off it’s strikingly different from their debut and immeasurably more polished and accomplished sounding than anything that’s come before, and that goes for the rest of Shoegaze too. This is the sound of a band finding a level no one else even knew was there.
Lost in Translation may have divided some but all were in unison that it had a pretty spectacular soundtrack. It gave My Bloody Valentine a hint more public notice when it used Sometimes, one of their simplest and most accessible songs yet arguably their most powerful. Also of note is Kevin Shields showing how he learned to pretend he could sing, by which I mean not really singing and more just sighing tunefully. It still works though.
Acid House was a thing that wasn’t anything special on its own but, when combined with existing sounds, became something spectacular. Primal Scream are the best example of its transformative powers but My Bloody Valentine got in on the act too and produced what many consider to be their opus. A swirling, barely lucid dreamscape called Soon. Backed by an uncharacteristically dance groove and drowned under a heaving swell of vintage Shields guitar, this is their definitive song. Listen to it. Listen to all of it actually.