Quiet – loud, quiet – loud. For people whose singing voices were slightly less audible than falling snow, My Bloody Valentine knew how to make some noise.
The singular sound that the band produced came about by mixing instruments and vocals at equal levels so that neither stood out. Guitarist Kevin Shields was also adamant that he didn’t want choruses or too many guitar effects.
Melodies were in short supply, and the band sampled themselves and fed the tapes back into the mix.
Their roots lay in Dublin (Ireland), where Shields joined drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig to form MBV in 1984 and moved to Berlin, joined by “Tina” on keyboards and vocalist Dave Conway.
A mini-album, This Is Your Bloody Valentine was released on the obscure German Tycoon label in 1984 but made little impression (it was later reissued in the UK), so the band returned to London and recruited bassist Debbie Googe.
The 12-inch EP Geek! (and the accompanying No Place To Go) emerged on Fever in mid-1986 which, like their debut, was strongly influenced by The Cramps and The Birthday Party. Later that year, the band signed with Joe Foster’s fledgeling Kaleidoscope Sound label for The New Record by My Bloody Valentine EP.
A switch to the Lazy label produced Sunny Sundae Smile (1987) which meshed bubblegum pop with buzzsaw guitars, a formula that dominated both the mini-album Ecstasy and Strawberry Wine released later that year.
Founder member Dave Conway left in 1987 and was replaced by Bilinda Butcher, who reportedly wowed the group by singing Dolly Parton‘s The Bargain Store at her audition.
Mixing translucent folk melodies and whispered vocals with revolutionary distortion, Isn’t Anything (1988) redrew the noise-rock map to embrace the molten fury of hip hop and the lysergic euphoria of acid house.
The album went off like fireworks inside your brain as Kevin Shields’ guitars bent the fabric of space and time, blending soft and hard textures, speed with torpor, and dissonance with dreamlike beauty.
By the turn of the decade, legions of shoegazing imitators had been spawned.
Their second album, Loveless (1991), was recorded in two distinct phases. The first phase produced the EPs Glider and Tremolo, then the band toured and then recorded the rest of the album, 10 of the 11 tracks being written by Shields (and recorded largely by himself, alone).
Googe and Ó Cíosóig left the band in 1995 and were followed by Butcher in 1997.
The band reunited in 2007 and a long-long-overdue follow-up album – m b v – finally appeared in 2013.
Bilinda Jayne Butcher
Colm Cusack (Ó Cíosóig)