My Bloody Valentine

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Isn't Anything, 8/10
Loveless, 9/10
MBV (2013), 5/10

When My Bloody Valentine walked on the stage of feedback-pop, something truly magic was finally created in the realm of psychedelia. The mini-album Ecstasy (1987) explored the ambiguity that would make their mature sound so haunting and devastating: ecstasy and terror were two faces of the same moon, and that moon shone day and night. Daydreaming and nightmare became the same state of mind as guitars enveloped naive melodies and drums smashed vocal harmonies. Isn't Anything (1988) went one step further than Jesus And Mary Chain, in that it renounced punk's violence and harked back to the most dilated forms of acid-rock. Kevin Shields' "shoegazing" guitar fullfilled Jerry Garcia's and Jimi Hendrix' galactic bliss, and helped the sweet litanies grind their way into a transcendental trance. Electronic keyboards joined guitar noise on Loveless (1991), the ultimate exploration of textures in rock music. Its stunning chaos can be viewed both as an enraptured "om" to the universe or as a deranged scream in a madman's cell or as a terrified paralysis in the face of a supernatural force. The album changed the meaning of the word "music" by proving the equivalence between "noisy" and 'symphonic", the same way that Einstein proved the equivalence between inertial and gravitational mass.
(Translated from the Italian by Troy Sherman)

My Bloody Valentine were among the most original, complex, important, and influential bands of the '80s. Although they recorded only a few records and only held a few concerts, their legacy is great. As is the case with all revolutions, the one which they started began with a very simple idea: to make noise with guitars, but in doing so generate a sound that is almost transcendent in the Buddhist sense of the word; a sound that can excite as much as appease the spirits; and a sound that can evoke at the same time ecstasy and terror. That simple idea launched the phenomenon of the "shoegazer" genre, the equivalent of Zen for the punk generation. In fact, this revolution inaugurated an idea of ​​rock chamber music that would eventually lead to the revival of ambient music.


My Bloody Valentine formed in Dublin in 1983. They grew up in the middle of the culture of the "Batcave", a London nightclub which was the center of the English Gothic subculture. Although they began in this dark and gothic setting, they soon got rid of the stereotypes of dark-punk. On their debut EP This Is Your Bloody Valentine (Tycoon, 1985), the quartet still consisted of its founding members: Kevin Shields (born in New York) on guitar, David Conway on vocals, and Colm O'Ciosoig on drums. Conway, with sobs and howls of bass and baritone, imitated Brian Setzer, swinging in commemoration of him on the track Forever and Again. Inferno is similar to the gospel of The Animals. The "drumming" of O'Ciosoig, which was both obsessive and acrobatic, propels the tribal Do not Cramp My Style. Their background in "Gothic" music came to the light at intersection of catchy rock and roll, The Cramps, and The Doors (which was evident in Homelovin` Guy and especially Love Gang ).


With the following year came two more EPs. The former, Geek! (Fever, 1986), proposed compositions that were still uncertain, such as No Place To Go and Love Machine. These were still influenced by the Gothic aspect of The Doors and Nick Cave. The New Record By My Bloody Valentine (Kaleidoscope, 1986) began slowing down harmonies with the ethereal and naive Lovelee Sweet Darlene. Sunny Sundae Smile (Lazy, 1987) was the last EP with Conway, who was destined for a career as a fiction writer.


The entrance of the new guitarist and vocalist Bilinda Butcher gave the band impetus to adopt the idea of the distorted pop of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Where the Scottish Jesus and Mary Chain were tied to the violence and the frenzy of punk-rock, My Bloody Valentine emancipated themselves from many bondages of the punk aesthetic. If anything, they began drawing more from older acid-rock. The sound was deafening and aggressive, but morbid and dreamy.


The group incorporated the ideas of the '60s into their music. They pushed these to extremes, though, by using a lot of technology that did not exist at the time, and added those extremities to the powerful sound of the punk era. In the hands of My Bloody Valentine, the layered wall of sound that Phil Spector created became pure cacophony, the jingle-jangle of the Byrds became a Freudian nightmare, and the vocal harmonies of the Beach Boys became the whispers of angels. The EP Strawberry Wine (Lazy, 1987) shows the influence of the folk-rock of Love (Can I Touch You, Never Say Goodbye), and on the mini-album Ecstasy (Lazy, 1987) they discovered the virtues of hypnotic distortions (The Things I Miss and Clair). As partners, these discs leak My Bloody Valentine’s forthcoming intent to go beyond what was in vogue: a renewed style of feedback-pop, a reinvigorated psychedelic revival. In this period of their music, My Bloody Valentine began sailing towards a sound that was the sum of all of the sounds of the era, while at the same time exceeding them. Ecstasy And Wine (Lazy Records, 2002) collects their Lazy Records period.


Their maturity, and with it a truly personal sound, set to "glide guitar" (signified by the exacerbation of the tremolo effect), came with the 1988 EP You Made Me Realise (Creation, 1988). This maturation can be seen on tracks such as Cigarette in Your Bed and through the distortion of the legendary title track, as well as in the similar EP Feed Me with Your Kiss, between the relentless rock and roll of that title track and the languid I Believe.


In November of 1988, the band finally released their first full length album, Isn’t Anything (Creation, 1988 - Sony, 2002). The quartet at this point was perfectly balanced (even sexually, after the entry of bassist Deborah Googe), and it was finally able to build a bridge between the psychedelic music of yesterday and today. Soft As Snow was still an epigone of the Sixties (the Beatles Day In The Life) and Cupid Come takes its cue from the transcendent strumming of the Velvet Underground. Songs like You're Still in a Dream and You Never Should push to the boundaries the use of the distortion pedal, the deformation of the rock and roll rhythm, and vocal harmonies’ beat. The culmination of ecstasy is indeed reached in the litanies that are whispered in an almost distracted tone by Butcher (Lose My Breath and No More Sorry).My Bloody Valentine succeeded in at least Several Girls Galore to chisel a memorable lullaby, and the band even touched REM’s folk rock in the second to last song on the album: Nothing Much to Lose.

E` questo sound svenevole, sfumato, senza nerbo, che sembra una prova di canzone piu` che la sua versione finale, a costituire la vera innovazione apportata dai My Bloody Valentine al rock psichedelico.

It was precisely this languid, nuanced, spineless sound, which seems to be a test run of a song rather than its final version, that constitutes the true innovation brought about by My Bloody Valentine to psychedelic rock. The disc proved to have an enormous influence on the groups of the next generation; the latter day "dreampop" bands, primarily. Unlike their imitators, though, My Bloody Valentine did not embellish pop melodies with distorted guitars. They created melody from chaos (not just from guitars). The music of My Bloody Valentine becomes "ethereal" in retrospect, while many of their disciples tried to be "ethereal" a priori. In this sense, their brand of rock is one of the few that truly mimics the psychedelic '60s, instead of borrowing the sounds “after the fact.” It is the process that matters, not the result. Theirs is therefore a search for musical textures, relative to that of Sonic Youth, not that of Jesus and Mary Chain.


The 7” single release of two instrumentals, which coupled the aforementioned album, foreshadowed the jungle of a few years later.


In April 1990, My Bloody Valentine released another EP, Glider, which was given to good and beautiful trances, in particular the long, hypnotic track Soon. This EP shows the obvious advantage of being able to be danced into a rave.


In February 1991, the band released another EP, Tremolo, with the bizarre, harmonic To Here Knows When, Honey Power, and Moon Song. The formula that they created had been, at this point, turned into a style, and the "shoegazing" genre had become a trend that was turning into a landslide.


Loveless (1991 - Warner, 2002) was released in November 1991. It was produced by Alan Moulder (a student of Brian Eno). My Bloody Valentine had increased their potentiality by using the technology at their disposal. In particular, they thickened the "mix" of samples and electronic sounds. The soft chant of Only Shallow is first lulled by the rhythm of the guitar and the smooth rhythm section, but it is suddenly torn apart by soaring melodramatic keyboards. The distortion of I Only Said is perhaps the most pounding of their career. It was a result of an accurate processing of their tone, as if there was a feedback of feedback. Deafening chaos of that then flows through a tune that is demented by electronics and vocal harmonies are merged into a single whistle with the guitar. The harmony of Blown A Wish is so refined that it brings them into the area of the Cocteau Twins. Come In Alone, however, recovers the rhythmic psychedelia of Sgt Pepper. With Loomer, their method reaches an experimental peak. It is whispered even more slowly and immersed in a frantic strumming guitar. Sometimes is a rough diamond, with a distorted bass line in the foreground and busy strumming (acoustic) in the background. The most spirited moments on the album are When You Sleep and What You Want, the only ones which recognize the complexities of rock music. The songs are drifting and performed distractedly with no action taken, and are destined to exist in this state of permanent awe. The melody is a tinsel which emerges only from time to time. Live, those songs sometimes last for twenty minutes.



Isn’t Anything and Loveless are two of the most important albums of the decade. Their ectoplasmic guitar brought psychedelic rock to new heights of expression and actually coined a new genre. In a time when British rock retraced its steps and everything was created solely on the basis of its preexisting examples of “good” music, the Valentine were one of the few bands that really upset tradition and changed the course of British rock.


Deborah Googe went on to form Snowpony .


Kevin Shields then collaborated with Experimental Audio Research .

I My Bloody Valentine sono stati fra i complessi piu` originali, importanti e influenti degli anni '80, benche' abbiano registrato pochi dischi e tenuto pochi concerti. Come tutte le rivoluzioni, la loro fu soprattutto un'idea: quella di fare rumore con le chitarre, ma un rumore quasi trascendente nel senso buddista del termine, un rumore che poteva tanto placare quanto eccitare gli animi, un rumore capace di evocare al tempo stesso estasi e terrore. Quella semplice idea lancio` il fenomeno degli "shoegazer", l'equivalente dello zen per la generazione punk, e di fatto inauguro` un'idea di musica rock da camera che avrebbe portato al revival della musica ambientale.

I My Bloody Valentine vennero formati a Dublino nel 1983. Crebbero nel mezzo della cultura del "batcave", in scenari cupamente gotici, ma si liberarono presto degli stereotipi del dark-punk. Sull'EP This Is Your Bloody Valentine (Tycoon, 1985) il quartetto constava ancora di Kevin Shields (nato a New York) alla chitarra, David Conway al canto, Colm O'Ciosoig alla batteria e un organista. Conway, con i singhiozzi e gli ululati del baritono basso, imita Brian Setzer nella swingante rievocazione di Forever And Again. Inferno e` quasi un gospel degli Animals. Il "drumming" ossessivo e acrobatico di O'Ciosoig propelle la tribale Don't Cramp My Style. Il loro retroterra "gotico" veniva alla luce in rock and roll trascinanti all'incrocio fra Cramps e ai Doors (Homelovin` Guy e soprattutto Love Gang).

L'anno successivo uscirono altri due EP. Se il primo, Geek (Fever, 1986), proponeva composizioni ancora incerte come No Place To Go e Love Machine, ancora influenzate dal gotico di Doors e Nick Cave, The New Record (Kaleidoscope, 1986) cominciava a rallentare le armonie con l'eterea e naif Lovelee Sweet Darlene. Sunny Sundae Smile (Lazy, 1987) fu l'ultimo EP con Conway, destinato a una carriera di scrittore di fantascienza.

L'ingresso della nuova chitarrista, Bilinda Butcher, diede l'impulso ad adottare il pop distorto dei Jesus And Mary Chain. Laddove gli scozzesi erano ancora legati alla violenza e alla frenesia del punk-rock, i Valentine se ne emancipavano del tutto, attingendo semmai al vecchio acid-rock. Il suono non era stordente e aggressivo, ma morboso e onirico.

Il gruppo riprende idee degli anni '60 e le spinge agli estremi, avvalendosi tanto di una tecnologia che ai tempi non esisteva quanto di una potenza di sfondamento come quella dell'era punk. Il wall of sound di Phil Spector diventa cosi` pura cacofonia stratificata, il jingle-jangle dei Byrds diventa un incubo freudiano, e le armonie vocali dei Beach Boys sembrano bisbigli d'angeli. L'EP Strawberry Wine (Lazy, 1987) mostra cosi` l'influsso del folk-rock dei Love (Can I Touch You, Never Say Goodbye), e il mini-album Ecstasy (Lazy, 1987) scopre le virtu` ipnotiche delle distorsioni (The Things I Miss e Clair). Per quanto interlocutori, questi dischi lasciano gia` trapelare l'intento di spingersi al di la` di tutti gli stereotipi in voga: rinnovato il feedback-pop, rinvigorito il revival psichedelico, i My Bloody Valentine veleggiano verso un sound che e` il summa di tutti i sound dell'epoca, ma che al tempo stesso li supera. Ecstasy And Wine (Lazy Records, 2002) raccoglie il periodo Lazy.

La maturita`, e con essa un suono davvero personale, impostato sulla "glide guitar" (un'esasperazione dell'effetto di tremolo), arriva con gli EP del 1988: You Made Me Realise (Creation, 1988), con Cigarette In Your Bed e la leggendaria distorsione della title-track, e Feed Me With Your Kiss, fra l'incalzante rock and roll della title-track e la languida I Believe.

Nel novembre del 1988 esce finalmente il primo album, Isn't Anything (Creation, 1988 - Sony, 2002). Il quartetto e` perfettamente bilanciato (anche sessualmente, dopo l'ingresso della bassista Deborah Googe) e riesce a costruire un ponte psichedelico fra ieri e oggi. Se Soft As Snow e` ancora epigonica nei confronti dei Sixties (i Beatles di Day In The Life) e Cupid Come prende lo spunto dallo strimpellio trascendente dei Velvet Underground, brani come You're Still In A Dream e You Never Should spingono il pedale del distorsore deformando la cadenza rock and roll e le armonie vocali beat. Il culmine di estasi viene anzi raggiunto nelle litanie trasognate che Butcher bisbiglia con tono quasi distratto (Lose My Breath e No More Sorry), riuscendo almeno in Several Girls Galore a cesellare una ninnananna memorabile (e sfiorando il folkrock degli REM in Nothing Much To Lose).
E` questo sound svenevole, sfumato, senza nerbo, che sembra una prova di canzone piu` che la sua versione finale, a costituire la vera innovazione apportata dai My Bloody Valentine al rock psichedelico. Il disco esercito` un'influenza enorme sui gruppi della generazione successiva, quella del "dreampop". A differenza dei loro imitatori, i My Bloody Valentine non abbelliscono melodie pop con chitarre distorte, ma fanno emergere le melodie dal caos (non soltanto delle chitarre). La musica dei My Bloody Valentine diventa "eterea" a posteriori, mentre molti loro discepoli prenderanno l'"etereo" a priori. In questo senso il loro rock e` uno dei pochi che davvero imiti la psichedelia degli anni '60, invece che prenderne soltanto in prestito le sonorita` "dopo il fatto". E` il processo che conta, non il risultato. La loro e` pertanto una ricerca di tessiture musicali, parente di quella dei Sonic Youth, non di quella dei Jesus And Mary Chain.

Il singolo accoppiato all'album, Instrumental, anticipa persino la jungle di qualche anno dopo.

I My Bloody Valentine pervengono alla trance bella e buona sull'EP dell'aprile 1990, Glider, in particolare il lungo brano ipnotico Soon, che ha l'indubbio pregio di poter essere ballato ai rave.

Nel febbraio del 1991 e` la volta di Tremolo, con la bizzarria armonica di To Here Knows When, Honey Power e Moon Song. La formula e` ormai diventata maniera, ma lo "shoegazing" fa proseliti a valanga.

Ci vogliono tre anni perche' il gruppo che ha scatenato la bagarre si ripresenti con un secondo album, Loveless (1991 - Warner, 2002), che esce nel novembre 1991, prodotto da Alan Moulder (un allievo di Brian Eno). I My Bloody Valentine hanno aumentato le loro potenzialita` ricorrendo alla tecnologia, in particolare infittendo il "mix" di campionamenti e suoni elettronici. La tenue cantilena di Only Shallow non e` soltanto cullata dal ritmo vellutato della chitarra e della sezione ritmica, ma anche squarciata all'improvviso dalle impennate melodrammatiche delle tastiere. La distorsione di I Only Said e` forse la piu` martellante della loro carriera per effetto di un'accurata elaborazione della sua timbrica, come se si fosse fatto un feedback del feedback; su quel caos assordante solca poi un motivetto quasi demenziale dell'elettronica e le armonie vocali vengono fuse in un sibilo unico con la chitarra. L'armonia di Blown A Wish e` talmente raffinata da portarli in area Cocteau Twins.
Come In Alone recupera peraltro la psichedelia cadenzata di Sgt Pepper. Il loro metodo tocca vertici sperimentali in Loomer, bisbigliata ancor piu` lentamente e immersa in un frenetico strimpellio di chitarra, e in Sometimes, con un ruvido rombo di basso in primo piano e un altro fitto strimpellio (acustico) in sottofondo. I momenti piu` grintosi si chiamano When You Sleep e What You Want, gli unici in cui si riconosca il complesso di musica rock. I brani vanno alla deriva senza che succeda nulla, appagati di esistere in questo loro stato di permanente stupore. La melodia e` un puro orpello, che affiora soltanto di quando in quando. Da qui alla new age il passo non dovrebbe essere troppo complicato.
Dal vivo quei brani durano talvolta venti minuti.

Isn't Anything e Loveless sono due degli album piu` importanti del decennio. I loro ectoplasmi chitarristici hanno portato il rock psichedelico a nuovi vertici espressivi e hanno di fatto coniato un nuovo genere musicale. In un momento in cui il rock britannico ritorna sui suoi passi e tutto viene giustificato solamente sulla base del suo preesistere, i Valentine hanno rappresentato uno dei pochi impulsi a stravolgere davvero la tradizione.

Deborah Googe formera` poi gli Snowpony.

Kevin Shields collaborera` poi agli Experimental Audio Research.

For a band that was hardly known when it was changing the course of rock music, it was surprising that its reunion caused so much sensation. Their first album in two decades, MBV (2013), was heralded as a masterpiece by pretty much all the publications that had ignored their real masterpieces. Truth is that the beginning borders on self-parody: She Found Now (basically an update of Sometimes) whispers lounge pop to an endlessly repetitive guitar pattern; the amateurish shoegaze-pop of Only Tomorrow has an unfinished guitar progression that the average hard-rock band would have turned into dynamite; and Who Sees You (basically an update of Only Shallow) boasts one of the most predictable guitar solos of the genre. If nothing else, the second trio of songs drops Shields' annoying whisper for Bilinda Butcher's coldly morbid hissing. However, the suspenseful and futuristic cosmic quasi-instrumental Is This And Yes is hardly innovative 20 years after Stereolab; and If I Am is little more than a nostalgic tribute to the film music of the 1960s. New You is a winner, relatively speaking, of what used to be called "bubblegum pop": a marching progression a` la Tommy Roe's Dizzy, a guitar vibrato a` la Tommy James' Crimson & Clover, etc. This Freudian return to the (rock) womb continues on the chaotic imitation of the Madchester sound of the 1990s of In Another Way. The album closes with the two "experimental" pieces. Other than looping a frenzied drum pattern, it is not clear what the instrumental Nothing Is is trying to achieve. Wonder 2 is hyper-distorted warped psychedelia and does certainly more than simply update Loveless to the 21st century. However, the problem remains the same: a trivial idea gets repeated endlessly without coalescing into anything of substance.
There is little to salvage on this collection of mediocre derivative songs. This is the confused work of musicians with no inspiration who desperately try different styles hoping that at least one will work. Maybe they were not so great after all. In the annals of rock music i can't remember a reunion that did not disappoint. I would be glad to write that this is the exception to the rule.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Giulio Bassanello)

EĠ sorprendente il clamore causato dal ritorno di una band cos“ poco considerata nel periodo in cui stava cambiando la storia del rock. Il loro primo album dopo ventĠanni, MBV (2013),  stato salutato come un capolavoro da quel pubblico che in sostanza aveva ignorato i loro veri capolavori. La veritˆ  che lĠinizio dellĠalbum rasenta lĠauto-parodia: She Found Now (fondamentalmente un aggiornamento di Sometimes) sussurra lounge pop su un infinito e ripetitivo schema di chitarra; lo shoegaze-pop quasi amatoriale di Only Tomorrow ha una progressione di chitarra incompleta e tale che un qualsiasi gruppo hard-rock avrebbe trasformato in dinamite; Who Sees You (aggiornamento di Only Shallow) vanta uno degli assoli di chitarra pi prevedibili del genere. Se non altro, la seconda triade di canzoni lascia il bisbiglio fastidioso di Shields in favore del sibilo freddo e gentile di Bilinda Butcher. Comunque, la cosmica, futuristica, quasi strumentale e piena di suspense Is This And Yes fatica a essere innovativa se si considerano i ventĠanni che la separano dagli Stereolab; If I Am  poco pi di un tributo nostalgico alle colonne sonore degli anni Ġ60. New You  un pezzo relativamente vincente di quel genere che veniva chiamato Òbubblegum popÓ: una marcia con un progresso simile a quello di Dizzy, di Tommy Roe, un vibrato di chitarra come in Crimson & Clover di Tommy James, etc. Questo freudiano ritorno nellĠutero (del rock) prosegue con lĠimitazione caotica del sound Madchester degli anni Ġ90 con In Another Way. LĠalbum chiude con i due pezzi pi ÒsperimentaliÓ: oltre a un avvolgente e delirante schema di batteria, non  chiaro a cosa aspiri la strumentale Nothing Is; mentre Wonder 2  psichedelia contorta e iper-distorta, e il suo ruolo  sicuramente pi di un semplice aggiornamento al ventunesimo secolo di Loveless... tuttavia, ancora una volta, il problema rimane lo stesso: unĠidea banale viene ripetuta infinite volte senza fondersi in qualcosa di sostanzioso.

CĠ ben poco da salvare in questa collezione di canzoni datate e mediocri:  il risultato del lavoro confuso di musicisti privi dĠispirazione, che provano disperatamente stili diversi nella speranza che almeno uno di essi funzioni. Forse non erano cos“ grandi, dopotutto. Negli annali della musica rock non riesco a ricordare un ritorno che non abbia deluso. Sarei stato felice di scrivere che questa  lĠeccezione alla regola.

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