My Bloody Valentine are an awkward band to talk about. It seems unfair that many people view everything the band did before 1991ís Loveless
just as little stepping stones, even prequels. Thatís the bandís fault in way, after Loveless, they disappeared completely. It was their pinnacle, but also their demise, with nowhere to go afterwards. Over $500 000 spent so that perfectionist Kevin Shields could fill every second of the album with ambient samples and surreal guitar work, bankrupting their record company. But money ainít a thang for Shields, he just didnít want to put the name My Bloody Valentine on anything that wasnít as good as Loveless. He even built a home studio, made two albums, then scrapped them both. Of course a band doesnít just make a bunch of crap for over 6 years then release a mind-blowing record, but not a lot on Ecstasy and Wine
sounds anything like Loveless. The hints are there though.
Despite being compared to bands like the jarring Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine never strayed far from being pop music, they reinvented pop music and made it fit them. Shieldís pop influences shine on this album, the melodies vibrant and upbeat, but soothing. No matter how much pop is put into one song, Kevin Shieldsí is still timid and hiding behind the rest of the music. Female vocalist and second guitarist Bilinda Butcherís airy vocals strangely back up Shields but are higher on the mix, Strawberry Wine
features her voice gliding over Shieldsí every third word, but heís barely heard under Butcher. The classic shoegaze boy/girl combination is established before they were really shoegaze. My Bloody Valentine sound like the Jesus & Mary Chain
stripped of their white noise and fuzz on Ecstasy and Wine
The guitars rarely possess any heaviness on Ecstasy and Wine
. Some fuzz occasionally bursts out to hover around the songs. Never Say Goodbye
is coated with a thick layer of fuzz, it almost drowns out the bright little riff that pops in and out of the song with its immense droning. The same happens on Clair
as a menacing, low static drives itself right through the song. A strange buzzing noise that sounds like a broken air condition enters the cacophony of thumping drums and chaotic fuzz. The song foreshadows what would come soon, itís one of the few moments on the album that remind someone very much of Loveless. The other songs, however, keep a new wave, lightweight style. Shields and Butcherís guitars are clean and buoyant, and are in standard tuning unlike their later stuff. This is probably what people find the most surprising about the album, to hear jangly guitars riddled all over the album, but the structures of the songs never escape that shoegaze sound. The production buries little hooks and noises in the songs, yet the punchy drums and jaunty guitars give the album an 80s pop sound.
All the of songs are short, a few over 3 minutes, keeping a standard format throught out each song. There arenít really any real verses or choruses, the songs just flow through soothing melodies, the transitions inside songs seamless. The songs that donít have any fuzz usually arenít too interesting musically, the vocalists are what drive the songs, Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher craft the songsí appeal. The almost bored expression in Kevinís voice mixed with Bilindaís choirgirl vocals give a ghostly feel. But their intriguing vocal mix isnít enough to support the record, a bunch of the songs sound the same, following the same formula and tire after a couple of listens. Other songs in the same fashion however, are pop gems. Whether I like it or not, Ecstasy and Wine
does seem like a stepping stone to Loveless, but it easily stands on its own sound.
Ecstasy and Wine is a combination of My Bloody Valentineís EPs
Strawberry Wine and