Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Best Irish Albums: EIGHT

MY BLOODY VALENTINE – Isn’t Anything (1988)

Best song: “Lose My Breath” 

Mais oui, I’m one of those misguided souls who think Isn’t Anything is actually better than LovelessLoveless is all about the sound. Isn’t Anything, on the other hand, is about the songs. 

While I do like certain shoegaze records (Isn’t Anything and particularly Ride’s Nowhere being my absolute favourites), I can hardly be considered the genre’s greatest admirer. My main issue with shoegaze is that quite often (more often than not, in fact) the wall of noise (the sound of sonic bliss for some) conceals painfully weak tunes. 

Released in 1988 (My Bloody Valentine having abandoned their failed career in bad post-punk), Isn’t Anything is different. The more you listen to it, the more the record reveals its great care for melody. Take “Lose My Breath”, for instance. Behind the idiosyncratic sound of guitar distortion there is one of the loveliest vocal melodies you will ever hear. And it is all very lovely (lovely and difficult), all wallowing in that dreamy, addictive, sometimes ominous atmosphere that makes listening to this album a very special, singular experience. But it’s not all so gentle and tender (in fact, the album contains some very disturbing lyrical lines) - far from it; the band could rip it up, too. Like on the album's most celebrated song, “Feed Me With Your Kiss”, which is basically a remorseless, crude grunge song. While "You Never Should" is just a catchy alt-rock thing made special by that very distinctive sound of theirs. 

What else is there to say? That the vocals as well as the album’s cover are oh so lovely and twee? That Isn’t Anything is one of the most important, influential releases of its time? Irishness? Ah yes, Irishness. But I will go for something obscure this time. For I get a feeling that the songs here are as understated and (melodically) meaningful as those immaculate short stories in Joyce’s Dubliners. But if that seemed too obscure, you might consider the dreamy, moody, slightly fantastic atmosphere that inhabits Isn’t Anything. Could well be deemed Irish. 

RECOMMENDATIONS. Loveless is still a must, of course, but, truth be told, I could never bring myself to loving it. Liking, yes; admiring, certainly. But loving?.. No, I guess not.

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