After a few years chugging through generic gloomy post-punk obscurity, My Bloody Valentine re-invented both themselves and rock music. It’s hard to find another rock album that sounds as authentically druggy/drunk as this one; it often sounds like it’ll fall over if it doesn’t hold on to some sturdy furniture. In fact it’s thoroughly intoxicated down to the last detail, the distant throbbing heartbeats through a jubilant wall of sensual noise in ‘All I Need’, the confused melancholy of ‘Lose My Breath’ and the final collapse of ‘I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)’ which feels like lying on the floor, semi-conscious trying to remember how you got there. It’s simultaneously precise and messy; euphoric and fatigued. The reverberation on the guitars is turned up so high until the guitars themselves are barely even there any more. It’s near-impossible to describe My Bloody Valentine’s sound. Any attempt to do so can only sound pretentious. It’s a fragile tension between melody and noise. The melodies are there, just, but the’re buried beneath a tidal wave of guitar roars and blurs. Everything seems wrong, out of time and place when you first hear it, but once you adjust yourself, you become absorbed; the songs become atmospheric soundscapes as well as zonked-out rock songs. It could easily be a concept album as it spins out of control from the one-drink-too-many to sleeping face down on the bathroom floor. The lyrics themselves are equally out-of-focus and often indecipherable; the occasional theme can be decoded occasionally (mostly sex and drugs), but the music surrounding them makes the words themselves irrelevant. Vocals are more of an instrument that a communication. Despite carrying similar sounds throughout, it can’t be described as one-note or boring; each track feels distinct, summoning different images and emotions.
An oddly beautiful, uncomfortable record, ‘Isn’t Anything’ also happens to be revolutionary; no one had heard guitars being used like this before and no one has since (discounting the follow-up, the seminal ‘Loveless’). It’s bewildering, blurry, noisy and once you get used to it, addictive and absorbing. A drunken stumble through a brightly lit, vivid scene you’re barely aware of.
Listen to this: drunk at a party
Key track: When You Wake You’re Still In A Dream