(On the Postpunk Band My Bloody Valentine)
Finally I have a copy of the third album, entitled simply as mbv, of the Irish Postpunk/Shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine, released on February 3, 2013.
Before I listened to it I revisited first the band’s entire discography: the two mini-albums, seven EPs, and two full-length albums.
I first discovered the music of My Bloody Valentine in 1988 on the recommendation of my highschool friend and fellow Alternative-music enthusiast Paolo Mendoza who immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 and who regularly sent me information and vinyl records and cassette tapes of obscure Postpunk bands in the late ’80s. These included The Jesus & Mary Chain, Skinny Puppy, The Dead Milkmen, Alice Donut, The Three Johns, and Pixies when these bands were still obscurities especially in the Philippines.
Formed in 1983 in Dublin, Ireland, My Bloody Valentine consists currently of founding members Kevin Shields (guitar and vocals) and Colm Ó Cíosóig (drums) with Bilinda Butcher (vocals, guitars) and Debbie Googe (bass).
Many musicologists regard My Bloody Valentine as one of the pioneers of the subgenre Shoegaze of Postpunk music—best defined by the fuzzy qualities of the guitar, achieved usually by maximizing the use of distortion, pitch bending, and digital reverb; steady bass; atmospheric synth sounds; dreamy vocal tracks drenched in reverb; and simple drum patterns and song structures. Shields once cited The Smiths as one of their influences in terms of melody. In their early years, bands for which they fronted included The Soup Dragons and Biff Bang Pow!
Other Shoegaze bands whose sounds are closest to that of My Bloody Valentine include The Jesus & Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr., Primal Scream, The Cranes, Chapterhouse, and Catherine Wheel.
To the uninitiated, the evolved music of My Bloody Valentine might sound chaotic and aimless because of the swirling waves and whirlpools of distortion-coated and reverb-drenched guitars that usually bury the rest of the instruments and the vocal tracks. However, digging deeper into the atmospherics of the music, a Postpunk enthusiast will not find difficulty in discovering bittersweet melodies and heart-wrenching balladry rooted in the band’s beginnings. My Bloody Valentine is like a distorted version of Cocteau Twins. Recommended songs are “Soft as Snow (but Warm Inside),” “Cupid Come,” “(When You Wake) You’re Still in a Dream,” “When You Sleep,” “What You Want,” and “Soon.”
The early music of My Bloody Valentine—represented by the band’s first mini-album (This Is Your Bloody Valentine, 1985)—was still driven by the Psychobilly sensibilities of pioneering Postpunk bands like The Cramps and The Birthday Party. One song off this EP is actually titled “Don’t Cramp My Style.” Another song, “The Last Supper,” reminded me of The Doors because of the Manzarek-style keyboards and the Morrison-approach style of former lead vocalist Dave Conway, who left after the third EP. My favorite remains to be “Forever and Again” and “Tiger in My Tank.”
The ensuing mini-album (Ecstasy, 1987) plus the first-four EPs (Geek!, 1985; The New Record by My Bloody Valentine, 1986; Sunny Sundae Smile, 1987; and Strawberry Wine, 1987) on the other hand, had more melodic and Pop sensibilities, highlighted by jangly and ringing guitars but with already a sporadic hint of the swirling reverbs and distortion which the band eventually became known for. The songs “She Loves You No Less,” “I Don’t Need You,” “(You’re) Safe in Your Sleep (From This Girl),” “You’ve Got Nothing,” “Sandman Never Sleeps,” “By the Danger in Your Eyes,” “Paint a Rainbow,” and “Never Say Goodbye” evoke a mélange of The Smiths, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and early Primal Scream.
Only one listen to My Bloody Valentine’s latest album and I was able easily to retrace its musical dots to the band’s previous works—fuzziness of guitars and atmospheric vocal mixes, yes they were there; but listening attentively to the songs with clinical precision, I did not fail to hear the melodic qualities of the rest of the instruments subtly buried under the typical bloody distortion and whirling reverb of guitars. My instant favorites off this new release are “New You” and “If I Am” because these songs both bear the strongest traces of the band’s musical beginnings.