Kevin Shields turns his perfectionist eye to the classic MBV catalogue and remasters the songs from the original analogue tapes. It’s a lush treasure trove of noise, finds Mic Wright
My Bloody Valentine are like The Grail in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. They can be the source of ultimate power or render you nought but a pile of bones and ashes. At their Roundhouse shows in 2008, some fools tried to touch The Grail directly, refusing the offer of ear defenders to stand unprotected during the sonic holocaust section of You Made Me Realise. The tinnitus they’re buzzing with now is what you get from making the wrong choice with MBV. They brook very little compromise.
The Grail analogy works for the idea of new music from Kevin Shields it now almost seems like a mythical idea. He has teased and danced around the issue for years. Back in 2009, Shields hinted that a new album of MBV material would emerge that year. We’re still waiting. In 2008, he told The New York Times: “I realised that all that stuff I was doing in 1996 and 1997 was a lot better than I thought.”
We will have to see. But in the meantime, the classic MBV catalogue has been pulled out of the cave again and it feels new after Shields turned his perfectionist eye to them and remastered the songs from the original analogue tapes. It’s a lush treasure trove of noise, with Loveless re-upped as a two-disc set, with another remastering to pick over as well as the new take on the tunes.
As well as Isn’t Anything and Loveless in new boots and panties, the EPs, Feed Me With Your Kiss, You Made Me Realise, Glider and Tremolo, get a new house alongside seven rare and unreleased songs as EPs 1988-1991. For anyone who has been mesmerised by the power, beauty and oddness of MBV, it’s yet another opportunity to get obsessed. And what are fans but condensed fanatics?
MBV has a history that stretches back beyond You Made Me Realise, but it’s not one Shields feels all that keen to acknowledge. The Creation years are the band’s imperial period, so EPs like Ecstasy (once reviewed as the sound of a group who appeared to have run out of money half way through recording) get short shrift. That’s understandable when you fire up EPs 1998-1991. It’s the sound of sweet sedation, like being serenaded by angels as you come out from under a general anaesthetic.
Songs like Angel, Cigarette In Your Bed and Glider come at you so woozily that deciphering lyrics beneath the guitar squall is hard. They make you strain at the beauty. The voices are instruments under the command of the guitar and the solid kick of the drums, parts of the MBV template that get less credit than they deserve. Angel, How Do You Do It and Good For You are the unreleased tracks on the compilation, but they fit so snugly into the sound that it feels as if they’re just old friends with new clothes.
Isn’t Anything is a sex record. It’s a sex record that’s about the real feelings of fucking. Theres sloppiness there and ecstasy and dirty joy. It’s the wooziness of early morning collisions and late night indiscretions. Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside) is dirty in a sly way that would make Marvin Gaye doff his knitted cap. It’s understandable that so many critics have got wrapped up in sonic cathedral verb wanking when talking about MBV; Isn’t Anything sort of dares you to do that. But the music cannot be adequately described on paper. It is a physical thing, like the way ribs shuddered and organs flip-flopped during those Roundhouse gigs.
Loveless demands more from the listener than Isn’t Anything. It’s more suffocating, like diving into a deep pool and feeling the water pressure trying to crush you. Blown A Wish sounds like the voices inside HAL‘s malfunctioning computer circuits would sound. The drum machines and oscillating guitars of Soon are so detailed and delicious you could pick at them forever, finding endless new details in the smallest of moments. It’s hard to say which, with the benefit of history, is the better album. Loveless gets more critical kisses but Isn’t Anything is easily its equal.
Each and every song on these remasters has something beautiful to give. Get them. Without them, your collection is missing something vital. Shields has revived these slumbering beasts and made them sound louder, clearer and more shimmering. That can only ever be a good thing. New music now please, Kev.
My Bloody Valentine’s reissues albums Loveless, Isn’t Anything and EPs and Rarities are out now through Sony.