The day was November 4th, 1991 when the Irish alternative rock band, My Bloody Valentine, released their album Loveless. Recorded pretty much entirely by Kevin Shields, the main songwriter of the band, it took two years to record and nearly bankrupted their label, Creation Records. Their first album, Isn’t Anything, which was released in 1988, received much positive critical acclaim. It was one of the first albums that stood as a major influence on “shoegazing,” a genre of music that used extensive guitar effects mixed in with indecipherable vocals to create a noisy, yet at times mellow, sonic landscape.
Despite the low budget release, Loveless lived past any hype that Isn’t Anything created. Not only was the album well-received, it is now considered the landmark album of the shoegazing genre. The “wall of sound” production, the experimentation with the sound of a guitar, the creative use of distortion, pitch bending, delay/reverb, and the low-mixed vocals influenced the likes of Radiohead, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Robert Smith of the Cure, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, M83, Silversun Pickups, The Horrors, Deerhunter and countless other bands. Shields’ playing style, which he called “gliding,” in addition to his use of reverse reverb, gave his guitar a very distinctive sound. Instead of using the tremolo bar (or “whammy” bar) on the guitar just to bend notes after playing them, he would waver it while strumming the guitar, making the guitar gently move in and out of the tune, allowing him to control a loud-soft sound dynamic. The reverse reverb, which echoes the music in reverse, sustained notes in a unique, almost ethereal way, allowing Shields to further sculpt the noise he made from the guitar.
After the release and tour, Creation dropped My Bloody Valentine, not wanting to work with Shields after having to spend a supposedly agonizing two years just to release Loveless. My Bloody Valentine soon got signed to Island Records, but never released any new material. Shields, an eccentric character whose antics have been compared to the likes of Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson, supposedly had at least two to three albums worth of material, but trashed them because, they did not live up to his standards. The success of Loveless and rumored writer’s block led to Shields having a mental breakdown. My Bloody Valentine only released two covers during this time and the rest of the band members started to branch out and commit to other music projects. They officially went on hiatus in 1997.
Suddenly in 2007, My Blood Valentine announced that they would reunite for a tour and release a new album. No new album was released, but the promise of the re-mastering of their two LPs and EP catalogue was finally fulfilled in the summer of 2012. In November, Shields announced that the long-awaited third LP would be released by the end of 2012. Yet again, it was not released, but the band announced that it was indeed complete and ready for the market. The album, titled m b v was finally released on February 2nd through their website, which subsequently crashed due to the amount of people trying to access it.
After the first listen, I can safely say that Shields isn’t a one trick pony. While the first few songs are reminiscent of older material, the rest of the album is quite experimental, with heavy drum and bass lines and jungle electronic music influence. I have to give it a few more listens until I can confer some sort of final judgment, but the new LP, including Loveless and Isn’t Anything, is definitely something to check out, especially if you are into 90s alternative music or any of the bands I mentioned earlier in the article. My Bloody Valentine is definitely a different and compelling interpretation on the alternative genre of rock music.