Review Summary: On their first studio album, My Bloody Valentine construct an immense wall of powerful but sweet noise.
Some people refuse to admit it, but noise can indeed be beautiful. The beauty is not always immediately apparent, yet digging through the clamor can reveal something quite ravishing. This is how I would describe listening to Isn't Anything, the first LP released by the critically acclaimed band, My Bloody Valentine. Isn't Anything is an album that has always been living in the shadow of the universally beloved Loveless. While Loveless is undeniably a classic, Isn't Anything itself is also a marvelous record. Isn't Anything deserves its own spot in the hearts of rock fans with its emphasis on heavy distortion and incalculable noise.
Isn't Anything is great not only because it is consistent, but because it is also multifarious. Each song has a different formula that makes it tick, while simultaneously clasping the distinctive sound that would come to define My Bloody Valentine. The term "shoegazing" is frequently thrown around to describe the band's use of distorted guitars and stifled vocals. My Bloody Valentine generates various effects with their guitar pedals and ultimately build a moving wall of noise. My Bloody Valentine's discernibly lo-fi sound gives the album a grainy feel, and a rugged one as well. Nonetheless, many of the more abrasive tracks like "All I Need" and "Feed Me with Your Kiss" carry the album's most emotional moments.
Isn't Anything is essentially a medley of songs focusing on the surging influence of love. What makes the LP so interesting is its presentation of typical rock song subjects in a twisted manner. My Bloody Valentine takes the traditional rock genre and pummels it with warped guitars and endless layers of sonic hubbub. This jagged character is born on the first track, "Soft as Snow (But Warm Inside)", as an infectious bassline gives way to a rush of turbulent guitars. Kevin Shields vocals are bolstered by Bilinda Butcher's dainty voice. The noisy quality of the song slowly morphs into an animated, lustful tune.
Butcher's lead vocals are equally pleasurable on the vibrant "Several Girls Galore" and the more delicate "Lose My Breath". The toss between Shields and Butcher keeps the album unpredictable and intriguing. Furthermore, the passion with which these vocals are delivered adds another layer to be deconstructed on the LP. Shield's inner turmoil can be deciphered from the wholehearted sensation of "You Never Should". Beneath the deafening guitars and exuberant drums, Shields illustrates a mental breakdown that he can no longer hide. Oddly enough, the song itself sounds like an emotional collapse. "Cupid Come" is a fervent and seductive track with a solid riff and a satisfying melody. The song ignites a fire within the band that comes to fruition among the enjoyable instrumentation.
Additionally, darker elements emerge from the core of the album, especially on songs like the eerie and slow "No More Sorry". A strange drone whirs in the background as pensive sadness saturates the song's composition. Other tracks seem completely dissonant before their essence crystallizes. For instance, "Nothing Much to Lose" begins with rowdy noise before morphing into a sleek love song. The meticulous songwriting and instrumentation of Isn't Anything may not be immediately evident, but every component fulfills its role effectively. At times the album sounds ferocious, but, nevertheless, the sweetness of the songs holds the album together.
Amidst the heavy reverb, instrumental distortion, and the perpetual wall of racket, Isn't Anything is as compelling as it is sharp. The album's beauty may not be clear on the first listen, but with repeated listens the hooks manifest themselves and the genius of these musicians comes to light. If the band had only released Isn't Anything, they still would have been one of the most revered bands of all time. Thus, Isn't Anything is a landmark album and a remarkable roller coaster ride.
You Never Should
Several Girls Galore
All I Need
Lose My Breath