My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (1988): Review

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Produced by My Bloody Valentine
Label – Creation

It’s likely that fans of My Bloody Valentine arrived at “Isn’t Anything” via two distinct directions. Firstly, there’s the buyer that was inspired by the excellent dissonant noise of their August ’88 single “You Made Me Realise” which reached number two in the U.K. independent charts. Secondly (and far more likely), it’s the lovers of 1991’s noisefest collection “Loveless”, who are back tracking to find out where the source of inspiration came to create one of the decade’s most influential recordings. Whatever the route, the resultant long player is a relative disappointment. It’s neither a positive progression from the preceding single (or E.P), nor does it sound anything like “Loveless”. Mainly recorded in a tiny studio in the back woods near Welshpool, the collection captures a time when Kevin Shields and co. were attempting to find an outlet that reflected their lives; the irritation at the outside world, casual sex, squatting and vegetating. Unlike later recordings, Shields hasn’t the confidence to use the studio as a tool to develop his swelling, reverb laden soundscapes, and the resultant LP is thinly produced, amateurishly performed, and at times an unfocussed mess. When interviewed on ITV’s Night Network a few weeks before release, Shield’s answer to the question “What does your music reflect?” was a shrugging “Dunno, we don’t really know what we’re doing”. His answer to further probing; “What’s the subject matter?” was a simple “…confusion”.

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As if to highlight the lack of clarity, the opener (“Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)”) is quite possibly the most banal tuneless dirge from this collection, with a rhythmic flow that seems like it’s stuck in tar. Bilinda Butcher’s dreamy vocal rescues the sluggish “Lose My Breath”, and the harder pre-grunge instrumental aggression of “(When You Wake) You’re Still In A Dream”, “You Never Should” and the single “Feed Me With Your Kiss”, sound infinitely more convincing. In time, and much to the annoyance of Creation boss Alan McGee, Shields would become a studio dabbler, spending hours washing his music with waves upon waves of guitar shards, feedback, and echo to develop a style that would of course be labelled shoegaze. The emphasis moved away from conventional songs, as on this record, and his direction took the course of creating an aural collage of distortion, droning riffs, sampled loops and obscured vocals that would eventually appear on “Loveless”.

Sadly, the content of “Isn’t Anything” reflects its title. It sees My Bloody Valentine coming to terms with their abilities as songwriters and the results are at best adequate, at worst plainly pedestrian.

6/10

Track Rating
1 – Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside) (5)
2 – Lose My Breath (7)
3 – Cupid Come (6)
4 – (When You Wake) You’re Still In A Dream (7)
5 – No More Sorry (5)
6 – All I Need (5)
7 – Feed Me With Your Kiss (7)
8 – Suesfine (7)
9 – Several Girls Galore (6)
10 – You Never Should (7)
11 – Nothing Much To Loose (6)
12 – I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It) (6)

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