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Music Review

My Bloody Valentine: 'Isn't Anything', 'Loveless' & 'EPs 1988-1991'

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Released on Sunday, May 6 2012

My Bloody Valentine - Isn't Anything artwork
That these reissues were pressed and ready for release four years ago is almost a punchline. People thought that Loveless took a while to get out of the studio, but they probably didn't reckon on waiting 21 years (and counting) for a follow up.

For now, we're more than happy to make do with these sparkly remasters of Loveless (in two versions), its predecessor Isn't Anything, the band's key EPs and three previously-unreleased songs ( 'Angel', 'Good For You' and 'How Do You Do It').

From the off-key/kilter vocals and clattering drum interludes of 'Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)' to the enveloping, overwhelming snugness of 'I Can See It (But I Can't Feel It)' there isn't a moment on the first proper My Bloody Valentine album that doesn't fit with crushingly-beautiful perfection.

'Sueisfine' mixes Joy Division with The Jesus and Mary Chain with C86 but sounds completely its own. The ear-splitting garage rock scuzz of 'Feed Me With Your Kiss' still demands to be played at MAXIMUM volume.

If My Bloody Valentine's first three quarters of a decade were the sound of a JAMC knock-off band stumbling around a squat groping in the dark for something special, this record crashes through like a Year Zero revelation. Sometimes lost in the shadow of what came next, this remaster reminds us that Isn't Anything is every bit as wonderful as its follow-up.

Tracks to download: 'Soft As Snow' (But Warm Inside)', 'Sueisfine', 'Feed Me With Your Kiss'



My Bloody Valentine - Loveless artwork
So to Loveless, recorded in two years at 19 studios with 18 engineers. It cost a reported £250,000 and almost bankrupt Alan McGee's Creation. It's perhaps the ultimate proof that pop music surpasses all that stuff about numbers, units, dollars and cents.

Of the two remasters, one from the originals and one from half-inch analogue tapes, some wags have suggested that the discs should just be labelled "car" and "home". We've had a little compare and contrast, and our battered ears would probably agree.

The immersion in waves of noise, feedback, melody, tear-inducing angelic joy and pure androgyny (but crucially not asexuality) on songs like 'To Here Knows When' or 'All I Need' are the aural equivalent of being suspended, helpless in a pool of happy-charged goo from Ghostbusters II.

In 'When You Sleep' and 'Soon' the album also has two out-and-out pop hits. These tunes are utterly in-your-face and irresistible, no matter how buried they are in the noise from Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Colm O Coisoig and Debbie Googe.

Shields told Jon Savage back in 1991 that, contrary to popular belief, the band used classic 1960s equipment (Jags, Vox, Marshalls) rather than fancy-pants FX pedals. But instead of hankering after the nostalgic fairy dust of something like The La's, MBV's new attitude sounded futuristic two decades ago. Now, and despite countless imitators since, they still sound just as ahead of/out of the times.

Tracks to download: 'Only Shallow', 'When You Sleep', 'Soon'



My Bloody Valentine - EPs and Rarities artwork

The real draw is the two-disc EPs 1988-1991. And, from the creative rebirth of You Made Me Realise to Tremolo and the three dug-up tracks, the songs hang together as a collection almost as well as the two studio albums.

Unless you were around back then or had a misspent youth tracking down old vinyl and shaky bootleg MP3s (guilty), this is the first chance to get almost everything you need from the Shields/Butcher/O Coisoig/Googe lineup (with the notable exception of the Ecstasy and Strawberry Wine tracks and a couple of covers).

But to complain about what's absent is more than petty. What is here are 24 of the loveliest songs you're likely to hear in 2012, or any year. The beneath-the-surface voices of Shields and Butcher alternately twist and turn you inside out. Not competing with the drones, rumble, guitars and samples, but melding with them in a dizzying-but-stately frenzy.

Even at their loudest, MBV are less a Wall of Sound and more a Wave of Noise, which entrances and invites as much as it disorientates. It's not all turned up to 11, though, and the softer moments ('Cigarette In Your Bed', 'Don't Ask Why') have their own perplexing power.

While there will always be a time and place for pop that waggles itself naked in your face, My Bloody Valentine prove that just as essential is the ambiguous and the suggestive. Music that slides coyly beneath the covers alongside you before slipping off its clothes and writhing around until you blissfully collapse. "Their sex songs were about wanting it," Shields recently said to The Quietus of Led Zep. "We were doing it!"


Tracks to download: 'You Made Me Realise', 'Drive It All Over Me', 'Honey Power', 'Off Your Face'
If you like this, you'll like: The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spiritualized, The Beatles

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