Isn't Anything... We beg to differ
Review: My Bloody Valentine – Isn’t Anything (remastered)
Published on May 4th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Regardless of how you feel about it from a ‘George Lucas retroactively meddling with Star Wars‘ perspective, Kevin Shields explained pretty clearly his reasons for remastering all the old My Bloody Valentine stuff in this interview with Pitchfork. At least we presume he did; much of the technical jargon proved to be beyond Rocksucker’s ken, but he seems to be saying that they’ve been able to make it louder, a motive that might amuse and terrify anyone who’s had their eardrums shredded by the Creation Records legends in a live setting.
But listen to those old Pixies records, early Pavement or the first couple of Boo Radleys LPs; much of the great noise-pop of the late-’80s/early-’90s was mixed so perceptibly more quietly than today that to include it amongst modern recordings on a playlist is to have its sheer power only implied, hinted at, rather than fully evidenced and experienced.
Thusly these new remasters may attract new fans, although knowing My Bloody Valentine that is highly unlikely to be the motive of this whole operation. “Soft as Snow” shows from the off what a worthwhile (if heavily delayed) venture it has been; that always-disorienting guitar sound beams out brighter and bolder than ever before, those thumping drums now even thumping-er, that gargantuan psychedelic noise bursting out of this alien pop song like it had been waiting for all eternity to do so. Oh, and Bilinda Butcher’s gorgeous syncopated oohs chiselling benevolent shapes out of this fearsome mound of noise…ahhh.
“Lose My Breath” has retained quite a muddy sound through the remastering, but its dissonant drone leading into dreamy chorus is still My Bloody Valentine all over and conceivably in this case a big influence on Mew, while “Cupid Come” seems to lay down a blueprint of sorts for Pavement’s classic 1992 debut Slanted and Enchanted with Shields’s light, airy vocal glowing amidst the grungy guitars, before exploding into sinister noise as does “Stop Breathin'” on Pavements also-classic 1994 follow-up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain.
“(When You Wake) You’re Sill in a Dream” in turn lays the foundations for The Boo Radleys’ early sound, intoxicatingly intoxicated not-quite-punk song that it is, before “No More Sorry” and “All I Need” plunge the experience firmly into lucid dream territory, the former’s big ol’ open plane of noises hinting at the splendour to come of Loveless, the latter coming across like some tempestuous Sigur Rós prototype.
Mogwai favourite “Feed Me With Your Kiss” is just so damn wrong-sounding; the guitar is absolutely huge and along with the bass and drums starts pounding – actually pounding, like a Thwomp – what moments previously had had at least some sort of resemblance to pop music underneath that madness of a guitar. “Suesfine” further teases out the tantalising suspicion that My Bloody Valentine made their songs so great by actively trying to sabotage them, in this case with a tight-as-fuck punk pummel underpinning what sounds like “suicide” but we must assume is the title refrain.
“Several Girls Galore” applies Butcher’s sleepless voice to the rough formula of “Soft as Snow” and gives it a sort of Blondie drive, thus establishing a mesmerising new formula, paving the way for the tremendously scuzzed-up “You Never Should” to bring to mind eminent contemporaries Dinosaur Jr. in its constituent arrangement of power-pop as 70% power to 30% pop.
“Nothing Much to Lose” is another to take a fairly innocent song and render it monstrous, Colm Ó Cíosóig’s excellent drumming thundering senses to the bone, before “I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)”, perhaps the Biblesong of This Sort of Thing, sees Debbie Googe’s bass generate great warmth from clashing with a simple yet effective chord progression, the two rubbing against each other like tectonic plates and turning into golden magma. It could be argued that Isn’t Anything is bookended by its two greatest songs, but that’s not something that needs to be decided by anyone.
In short, this is still a great album, and now it sounds that extra bit thicker, fuller and meatier. It may not be what My Bloody Valentine fans have been pining twenty years for, but it’s an entirely legitimate update that raises questions about how often classic albums may have to be revisited as technology goes increasingly haywire.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!
The remastered Isn’t Anything will be released on 7th May through Sony. For more information, please visit www.mybloodyvalentine.net