My Bloody Valentine: The Opposite of Rock’N’Roll
In 1991, My Bloody Valentine released one of modern rock's most influential albums, then mysteriously imploded trying to surpass it. On the eve of their unlikely resurrection, Simon Reynolds examines the original shoegazers' noisy genius.
My Bloody Valentine made a lot of noise in America in 1992. Figuratively — their album Loveless had become a critical sensation — and literally — with a spring tour of the U.S. that’s been rated as the second loudest in history. “Here in L.A., it’s a badge of honor to have been at their show at the Roxy,” says Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups, just one of countless bands influenced by MBV’s neo-psychedelic bliss-blast. “The legend goes, it was so loud people’s shorts were flapping about from the sound waves. Their hair was rippling.” On each night of the tour, MBV climaxed their set with what they called “the holocaust” — the middle eight of “You Made Me Realise,” a chasm of one-chord cacophony the group sadistically stretched out for as long as 20 minutes, although it’s hard to be totally sure, with audience members losing track of time and, in some cases, consciousness.
After this deluge of din came a deafening silence. Sixteen years of it, a quiet that grew increasingly perplexing and frustrating for Loveless’ ever-expanding legion of fans. During that time, sales of that album, the band’s third, grew steadily (worldwide, it has sold 250,000 copies and counting), and the legend of its agonizingly difficult making swelled. So did rumors about the Irish quartet’s unmaking, their collective spirit shattered by the struggle to create a follow-up to surpass Loveless. A tarnished halo of mystique gathered around My Bloody Valentine’s leader, singer/guitarist Kevin Shields. This eccentric, driven perfectionist became alt rock’s very own Brian Wilson, grimly wrestling with a million-dollar Smile-like Unfinished Masterwork.
Now, long after most fans had reconciled themselves to the band’s utter extinction, in a confounding twist, My Bloody Valentine have re-formed, announcing a slew of tour dates and festival appearances on both sides of the Atlantic (including September’s All Tomorrow’s Parties in upstate New York, curated by Shields himself), as well as remastered reissues of Loveless and its nearly-as-fabulous 1988 predecessor, Isn’t Anything. But perhaps most tantalizingly, Shields has hinted that Loveless may just get its follow-up after all.