At this point, whether there's going to be a third album by My Bloody Valentine or not is as uncertain as the second coming of Christ. It's just a matter of faith. To believe in Kevin Shields or not to believe in Kevin Shields, that is the question. The good news for fans is that Shields, unlike other charlatans who’ve been inactive for two decades but promising a comeback (such as, for instance, the scandalous case of Derrick May, techno legend, incapable of releasing any new material, save the odd remix or collaboration, since 1992), has at least been working on some material, like the excellent passages of electric melancholy for the “Lost In Translation” score, or the spoken word album alongside Patti Smith, “The Coral Sea”, on which he used his guitar as a toy to experiment with. But of course, all of that is just an appetiser, when we really need a historical feast. No matter how many songs Shields is releasing here and there, it remains to be seen if he can – not supersede, because that's impossible—but simply bravely follow up “Loveless”, one of the landmark (if not the best) records of the nineties.
Just to prove he's really working again, apart from the gigs, and after years of saying he's writing new material, he's releasing a much-needed batch of reissues, with the re-mastered versions of “Isn’t Anything” (Creation, 1988) and “Loveless” (Creation, 1991), and the little jewel in the crown of My Bloody Valentine's retro excavation: the EPs from the Creation era (plus a fistful of previously unreleased tracks from that same time). Some of them have been on the second-hand market for years, at incredible prices (on vinyl), so it's a good time to recover them, put them into context and polish them up the way they deserve to be, in order to complete the inside history of the phase when Kevin Shields decided to abandon his band’s post-punk antics and start experimenting with the infinite textures coming out of his guitar, putting his head down, gazing at his shoes and weaving the tapestries of noise that would revolutionise rock forever.
The double CD holds the following material: it starts with “You Made Me Realise EP” (1988), the first recording for controversial Creation Records, the label he would later almost ruin, omitting the albums and singles recorded between 1985 and 1988 on Fever Records and Lazy Records, when MBV were really something different. This is followed by “Feed Me With Your Kiss EP” (1988), “Glider EP” (1990), “Tremolo EP” (1991) and the B-sides of the single “Only Shallow” (1991), plus the split flexi-disc with Pacific (“Sugar”), a spectacular extended version (up to ten minutes) of “Glider” from the 12” that featured the Andrew Weatherall remix of “Soon”, and some minor pieces taken from promo singles, or that were simply never released before (“How Do You Do It”, “Good For You”, “Angel”), which aren't really essential, apart from the fact that they need to be on here in order to make the story complete. A story that started after Shields came under the influence of Joy Division (listen to the “She’s Lost Control”-like guitars of “You Made Me Realise”) and the southern rock that also had Primal Scream under its spell (“Slow”). Around that time, he also started to come up with his trademark ethereal vocal harmonies and complex, increasingly vaporous guitar riffs (“Thorn”). As a whole, “You Made Me Realise EP” still sounded very much in the vein of C-86, and hard on its heels; the real seed of “Isn’t Anything” was on the single that came after, “Feed Me With Your Kiss EP”.
It features four heavy songs, where the guitars have fully taken on their steamrolling role, the volume has grown to unspeakable levels, and Bilinda Butcher's voice is buried under layers of noise: painful blows like “Emptiness Inside” (which speaks a different language here, evolved from the previous single, but much darker, more violent, more autistic), clouds of electricity like “I Believe”, the bitterness of “I Need To Trust”… All of this was completed on “Isn’t Anything”, a foundational record of the shoegaze realm (and a 9++ on PlayGround's chart), and My Bloody Valentine started to climb the glorious mountain of indie-rock of those years, still eclipsed by bands like Pixies, but well on their way to absolute indie world domination. Come 1990 (the year of “Glider EP”), Shields' sound had radicalised completely, transformed in the solitude of the studio. There were still some sixties traces, like the mid-tempo song “Don’t Ask Why”, a heavy contrast with the C-86 martial quality of “Off Your Face” and the cascades of infinite guitars on “Soon”, which would eventually end up on “Loveless”, as one of the most beautiful album closers of all time (a 10 on the PlayGround scale, on any scale for that matter).
The second CD is the one that completes the “Loveless” era: on “Tremolo EP”, a new evolution of that liquid language of guitars could be sensed, multiplied in a complex puzzle, which could only be made in a state-of-the-art studio, with blows of noise (“Honey Power”) that probably marked grunge bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, but where the real interest lies in “To Here Knows When” and “Swallow”, spectacular pieces of shoegaze that were executed almost perfectly (calmed down with the peace of the fourth track, “Moon Song”). As rehearsals, which they were, in a way, for the explosion, months later, of “Loveless”, these tracks weren't My Bloody Valentine's masterpiece yet. But they were a sigh away from what Shields had in mind: the rage and shadows of “Isn’t Anything”, the electric sculpture of “Loveless”—these are titles that should be part of humanity's DNA.
With these reissues (the ones of “Isn’t Anything” and “Loveless” also consist of two records, one with the original sound and one with the re-mastered version, and no bonuses), the glory days of MBV are now completely documented, clean and shiny for the new century. The only thing left now is for Shields to decide to come down to earth, finish that third album that we’ve heard so much about, although nothing is known for certain, and for the result to be worth the infinite patience that we fans have shown.