My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything (Remastered) / Loveless (Remastered) / EPs & Rarities - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything (Remastered) / Loveless (Remastered) / EPs & Rarities

by Steve Rhodes Rating:9.5 Release Date:2012-05-07

You wait two decades for an album and three come at once. Well, not exactly. After 21 long years, interjected by a couple of cover versions and several false starts, Kevin Shields is finally unleashing remastered versions of the seminal Isn't Anything and Loveless, as well as a full collection of EPs and rarities, all from their Creation Records heyday.

For anyone who has never stumbled on My Bloody Valentine, they were a unique, pioneering guitar band, where effects, distortion, reverb and noise ruled the waves, but also backed up with delicate vocals and driving rhythms. With perhaps only The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Velvet Underground as their forebears, they created an excellent legacy in just a few years of their output on Creation, which many acts, particularly of the shoegazing genre, followed, imitated and were inspired by - but nothing could quite live up to MBV.

Though Loveless is the album that often gets critics salivating, Isn't Anything is an excellent place to start. Opening with the primal 'Soft As Snow, But Warm Inside', delayed guitar shards and dual vocals are driven along by Colm O Coisoig's pulsing drumming, leading to an almost hypnotic, dream-like state for the listener, which is reflected throughout the album.

The mix of heavier, faster-paced songs such as '(When You Wake) You're Still in a Dream' and 'Suesfine' with brittle numbers like 'No More Sorry' and the effortless 'Lose My Breath', gives the album much-needed structure, with the latter a highlight, perfectly showcasing Bilinda Butcher's breathy, delicate vocals breaking through the beautiful noise. It's a fragile but sumptuous album which belied MBV's earlier releases.

Three years, allegedly a quarter-of-a-million pounds and a succession of engineers later, Loveless appeared and was fully deserving of its acclaim. From the opening swoon of 'Come in Alone', right through to the hypnotic and seemingly neverending 'Soon', it is an all-enveloping wall-of-sound, where tracks blend seamlessly into one another but also retain their uniqueness.

Keeping a fine balance between distortion and melody, guitar music has never sounded so enticing and beautiful, before or since. Though the album is strong throughout, the startling 'To Here Knows When', possibly the most surprising UK Top 40 Chart hit ever, and 'Sometimes' are the highlights. The latter is just breathtaking, with a simple fuzzed melody backing Kevin's dreamy vocal, but the song really takes off part way through with a euphoric, spine-chilling hook that lifts the song into another stratosphere.

Usually when albums are revisited and 'remastered', they can often strip away what made the originals so great, relying too much on overproduction or unnecessary re-invention. Thankfully, this has not occurred. There seems barely any difference between the original albums and their remasters (and little between either version of Loveless on show here). Bar several of the songs, particularly from Isn't Anything, sounding a little fuller and richer, there is no pomp and circumstance. This, however, may make neither remastered album essential to the seasoned MBV listener. Where these listeners will benefit, though, is from the EPs & Rarities release.

Collecting four outstanding and often difficult to get hold of EPs, some extremely limited releases and three unreleased songs, it is an excellent compilation worth forking out for. 'You Made Me Realise', their first release for Creation, is a startling opener that kick-started their transformation, discarding their shambling beginnings. Even now, it is a powerful, bludgeoning song which burrows deep into the consciousness.

Other EP highlights include the muscular and rolling 'Feed Me With Your Kiss', the sparse and delicate 'Cigarette in Your Bed' and the mesmeric, percussion-heavy 'Swallow'. Most purchasers, however, will be keen on the rare and unreleased material, much of which is focussed around the Isn't Anything era. 'Good for You' and 'How Do You Do It' retain the rolling drum patterns of that album, but it is quite clear why both were left off, as neither stand out or really add anything to their repetoire.

However, 'Angel', with Bilinda's sensual vocal, is sassier and far more interesting, 'Sugar', while seemingly under-produced, is still frail and charming and there are interesting contrasts between the two instrumental numbers, with one taking a traditional MBV route, and the latter taking a dance-orientated position, adding a chilling guitar over the top of a drum pattern similar to Madonna's 'Justify My Love'. Though missing their excellent covers of Wire and Louis Armstrong, it neatly showcases MBV's superb back catalogue.

So, 21 years on and these three releases perfectly sum up MBV's heritage. With rumours of Kevin working on new material, here's hoping a new album will emerge in the next few years. We've certainly waited long enough.

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