My Bloody Valentine

The reunion shows—which many thought as unlikely as Guns N’ Roses’ upcoming Chinese Democracy or another Cubs championship—sold out...
By Brent DiCrescenzo |

The reunion shows—which many thought as unlikely as Guns N’ Roses’ upcoming Chinese Democracy or another Cubs championship—sold out in an instant. It’s no wonder: My Bloody Valentine’s landmark 1991 album, Loveless, is perpetually ranked as one of the top rock records of the ’90s, right up there with Radiohead’s OK Computer and Nirvana’s Nevermind. Of course, the latter two groups sold a hell of a lot more and became household names, so what’s all the fuss over this reclusive Irish band?

Quite simply, MBV redefined what rock music could sound like. Kevin Shields’s tremolo-driven waves were arguably the last innovation in electric-guitar playing. The studio genius found bliss in volume. By holding the whammy bar while frantically strumming, Shields made chords vibrate, twirl and melt. The wall of noise seemingly became gossamer, like the vanishing blades of a spinning fan or the rubber-pencil trick.

Since then, in press releases and reviews, referencing My Bloody Valentine has become lazy shorthand for “layers upon layers of distorted guitar”—which is incorrect. As you can hear on the spaciously mixed vinyl and on next month’s remastered reissue, Loveless works with only a few tracks of guitar. It’s merely a trick on the ears.

But the party line is that, aside from the debut LP, 1988’s Isn’t Anything, the group’s early works are relatively worthless. Wrong. The seminal album and its more traditional predecessor overshadow a body of killer EPs. And the band will dig into them live. So before heading to the Aragon, scour the blogs for these nuggets. Just don’t forget the earplugs.

This Is Your Bloody Valentine + Geek!
EPs, 1985
The Vegas-vampire vocals immediately jump out to anyone familiar with the band’s trademark ethereal sound. Former singer Dave Conway croons like a rockabilly Dracula. These hissing slabs of lo-fi gothic garage stomp are better suited to fans of the Stooges, the Misfits and the Cramps. And they do prove one key point for music snobs: MBV was doing the distortion-drenched ’60s shtick a bit before the Jesus and Mary Chain.

The New Record by My Bloody Valentine
EP, 1986
Following the British trend toward twee known as C86, the band suddenly began to sound more like the Smiths—albeit in a wind tunnel. Behind the hurricane of static lies jangly flower pop.

Strawberry Wine + Ecstasy
EP, 1987
After Conway departed, Shields split vocals with new recruit Bilinda Butcher. As the new lineup finds it feet, hiding soft boy-girl harmonies behind driving, dreamy hooks, MBV delivers the cleanest, sweetest material of its career and kick-starts the shoegazer movement.

You Made Me Realise
EP, 1988
With heavier bass on the bottom and dreamier vocals floating above, this first release for Creation Records set the mold for all that followed. Wrapped in a beautiful sleeve, it’s a must-own. The title track’s bridge burns and howls, as if your ears are reentering the Earth’s atmosphere after a blissful drift in orbit. It remains the centerpiece of the band’s live show, commonly referred to as the “sonic holocaust.”

My Bloody Valentine storms the Aragon Saturday 27.