Tag Archive: My Bloody Valentine


This is a monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

Dinosaur Jr. – “You’re Living All Over Me” (SST Records, 1987)

This month’s Classics Critiqued selection is considered by many fans and music critics to be an alternative rock classic that put Dinosaur Jr. (J. Mascis (guitar), Lou Barlow (bass) and Murph (drums) on the map and triggered their signing to a major label. “You’re Living All Over Me” and the band’s live shows influenced the shoegaze music scene in England and the American grunge scene in Seattle. Combining a melting pot of rock music genres including metal, hardcore, punk and noise rock and adding twist of Neil Young and a pop sensibility, the album created a fresh fusion from long established elements. In this article I discuss the album and its sound, initial impact and continuing legacy.

 “You’re Living All Over Me” was the band’s second album and follow-up to 1986’s “Dinosaur”, which was a spirited affair that hints at what was to come and contains none of the new melodic sound showcased on “You’re Living All Over Me”. By this point the band had developed their sound and became tighter through touring. The album arrived in 1987 as the US alternative rock scene shifted from the dominance of hardcore in the early 80s to both more experimental and more tuneful extremes. On the one hand Sonic Youth released “Sister” and Minutemen would bow out with “Ballot Result” while Husker Dü had released “Warehouse: Songs and Stories”, The Meat Puppets put out “Huevos” and Dinosaur Jr.’s closest peers the Pixies started their career with “Come On Pilgrim”. Dinosaur Jr. sat in between these two extremes taking the best elements from the two sides and fusing them together into something of their own.

“A brilliant, brutal hailstorm of hyper-distorted riffs and pulverizing basslines, it’s harder, louder and meaner than nine out of ten heavy metal albums. The multi-sectioned songs change direction so frequently that it’s hard to tell them apart, as the power-trio assault is modulated by graceful, looming melodies that rise like mist out of the pedal-mess”.

–          Trouserpress.com

What were the ingredients that went into Dinosaur Jr.’s melting pot? They combined the molten garage rock of “Funhouse” by The Stooges, the adolescent punk of The Ramones, the noise rock of early Sonic Youth, Neil Young style melodic country rock and Black Sabbath’s epic sludge filled metal. One of their closet contemporaries was Husker Dü who similarly combined punk’s energy with the classic rock influences that punk bands were supposed to shun. The difference between the two is that as Dinosaur Jr.’s sound developed they retained most of their punk edge. Many critics have spent a lot of time discussing the emotional content of the band’s material (more on that later) and I think it’s this that places the trio in a lineage of great adolescent pop-rock bands including The Stooges, The Ramones, Buzzcocks and Nirvana; maybe what separates Dinosaur Jr. is their earnestness.

“It gives off the feeling that you’re not listening to a record, per se, but rather have stumbled into the practice space of the best unknown guitar band in the world. They don’t know you’re there, so they just keep playing with everything they are”.

–          Pop Matters

Much has been made of Dinosaur Jr.’s slacker image and their dour subject matter. However, what is rarely picked up is the moments when their music temporarily surges up and sours creating (sonically at least) a feeling of uplift. Taking into consideration that the band members were barely out of their teens dealing with all the new problems life throws at young people, it’s not a surprise they often dealt with life’s more troubling emotions. The band were incredibly adept at expressing a range of emotions often simultaneously, who else could create songs like ‘Raisins’ which finds space to include “anger, arousal, depression and awkwardness” in a four minute song or ‘In A Jar’ which “displays the scepticism and paranoia of the socially downtrodden when a girl actually likes them”. Barlow takes things a step further on his two song writing credits: ‘Lose’ and ‘Poledo’ which total “nine minutes of pure, unadulterated self-loathing”. ‘Poledo’ is the odd one out on the album sounding like a prototype for what would be become Barlow’s new project Sebadoh. It combines a section of lo-fi ukulele with Barlow despairing over the top followed by “some Stockhausen-by-way-of-Fisher-Price pause-button edits.”  Elsewhere Mascis yearns like Neil Young, his voice caught in “a confused mess: emotionally disentangled yet intensely felt, indolent and passive yet capable of incredible fury and volume”. Dinosaur Jr. created the most directly personal and emotional music while their peers “My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth immersed their personal-political ambivalence in torrents of guitar noise; Butthole Surfers ran with scatological humour as expressive deflection; Spacemen 3 discovered gospel and the blues as a way of channelling their responses through pre-determined forms.”

“… Dinosaur are the sound of galvanised lethargy, vibrant despondency. Grey skies have seldom blazed so bright, surged so furiously.” – Simon Reynolds, Bring The Noise.

It was with “You’re Living All Over Me” and its accompanying tour that Dinosaur Jr. started to influence bands on both sides of the Atlantic, most obviously the Seattle grunge scene and in particular Mudhoney, who incorporated the sludge metal aspect of Dinosaur Jr., and Nirvana who, inspired by “You’re Living All Over Me”, also married hardcore punk’s intensity to metal sludge and grind with pop sensibilities. Over in the UK the band was an influence on the shoegaze scene with My Bloody Valentine taking the way that “Dinosaur Jr. dissolved rock’s vertebrae, vaporizing the riff, power chord and bass line in a blizzard of serrated haze. MBV took this logic of blessed amorphousness to the next level, years later; Kevin Shields would play in the appropriately named J Mascis and the Fog.” Though it’s hard to pick out contemporary bands who are directly influenced by “You’re Living All Over Me” it’s immediate impact echoed in many bands for years to come.

You can listen to “You’re Living All Over Me” here.

 Let us your views on the album and Dinosaur Jr. in the comments or on our Twitter.

This is a new monthly feature where classic and cult albums are revisited and reassessed for the modern listener. The only rule is that it must be a critically acclaimed or cult record released before 2000.

March 2010: My Bloody Valentine ‘Loveless’ (Creation Records,1991)


A combination of noise, Kevin Shield’s unique guitar sound, looped drums and sexually alluring buried vocals, ‘Loveless’, released almost 20 years ago, was hailed as the future of rock music by many critics who viewed it as leap into the great unknown. Alongside American contemporaries Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies, My Bloody Valentine (MBV) are seen to have reinvigorated rock music in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s and upped the ante for the shoegaze scene.

They ruled over the genre as its most innovative band, pushing the envelope of rock music and volume of performances. The European tour that followed ‘Loveless’ was voted the second loudest ever in 2000 by Mojo magazine and their live shows have been branded as “criminal negligence” and likened to “the holocaust” by the music press.

‘Loveless’ took two years and 19 recording studios to complete and due to its mounting costs, suspected to have totalled £250,000, it almost bankrupted Creation Records forcing them to sell 50% of their shares to the Sony Music Company and allegedly made the label’s vice chairman Dick Green to go grey over night. Shields has always claimed that most of the sum was due to three years of living costs for the four band members not recording costs. Yet bills mount up once it is taken into consideration that most of 1989 was unproductive and the band had a difficult relationship with all but two engineers (Alan Moulder and Anjali Dutt) and much down time due to the ill health of Shields, vocalist/guitarist Belinda Butcher and drummer/engineer Colm O’ Ciosoig . Append this with non-existent organisation (writing lyrics during recording sessions) and communication (Moulder said “Kevin had a clear view of what he wanted, but he never explained it.”) and it becomes very expensive for Creation Records.

So how does the album stand up at nearly twenty years old? Listening to it again it appears to tolerate criticisms that were voiced at the time of release yet it frustrates and raises questions concerning its reputation. Upon its release NME journalist Dele Fadele reviewed the album and though full of glowing praise: “Loveless fires a silver-coated bullet into the future, daring all-comers to try and recreate its mixture of moods, feelings, emotion, styles and, yes, innovations.”, he was disappointed with their desire to disassociate themselves from the dance music influences and reggae bass lines he heard in their music. Conversely, Melody Maker’s Simon Reynolds’s argued Fadele’s observation declaring that “while My Bloody Valentine have amplified and refined what they already were, they’ve failed to mutate or leap into any kind of beyond.”

It could be stated that MBV only achieved creating the definitive shoegazing record. The album sounds like many of their contemporaries, the only difference being a manifesto that appeared to strive to create and redefine something beyond the music that existed before it. This is in line with Shields’ intention to make a studio album that moved the band forward but the idea falls apart on further investigation of the album’s recording process. For instance, because O’Ciosoig’s ill health meant he was unable to attend sessions drum loops were utilised. The vocals weren’t buried in the mix as a deliberate rebellion against the established rules of mixing rock music but because of Shields’ frustration at not being able to record a good vocal take of himself or Butcher. The bass lines are rarely audible and the drums are often overawed by the surrounding guitars and noise. Initially this feels odd but makes sense when you realise it took two years to make, though Shields insists that only four months were spent recording, and thirteen days to master, which usually takes 16 hours. The overall feeling is that though not a bad album, ‘Loveless’ is a missed opportunity owing to a long gestation period and Shields’ mistrust of engineers and poor organisation. Kevin Shields’ ambitious vision ultimately became his undoing.

So with a 2CD remastered reissue of ‘Loveless’ and their debut album ‘Isn’t Anything’ been  scheduled for re-release since they reformed in 2007 a question is raised: who has taken on the challenge laid down by ‘Loveless’?

The challenge I refer to, which is not what Shields’ intended, is to match noise and innovative guitar playing with current dance music production. The answer is complex, most artists who have cited MBV as an influence or have been compared to them have only taken  on the noise element and gone to the extreme. Yet there are some artists who have attempted the MBV formula. Manitoba (now known as Caribou) briefly flirted with it on a clutch of tracks from his 2003 ‘Up In Flames’ album and LA four-piece Health, who have melded MBV’s shoegaze sound to tribal rhythms and on their 2009 album ‘Get Color’ and remix album ‘Health/Disco’ employed dance beats and remix techniques to add a fresh dynamic. This echoes the final and most impressive track ‘Soon’ who’s breakbeat backing is clearly audible in comparison to the majority of the album. Health still frustrate though as they have yet to consistently deliver across a full album. Some tracks are either overridden by sludgy electric and bass guitars or disturbed by ear splitting feedback. Hopefully their evolution and the promise of a ‘Health/Disco 2’ album will finally fully embrace the challenge and fulfil the missed opportunity that is ‘Loveless’

‘Loveless’ has only managed to remain perceived as a classic due to the myths and reiterated reports of its status. It wasn’t a “silver-coated bullet into the future” but merely a stepping stone towards it. Let’s hope that bands present and future can snatch the baton of ideas and fearlessly run with it.

Spotify Playlist (HTTP link then Spotify Link):

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Psychedelia: The Return

Disclaimer: This post is in no way attempting to suggest or create a new  musical genre or sub genre. It is intended to observe some of the, at times tenuous, links in a burgeoning network of new psychedelic artists.

After a decade in development 2009 saw an organically grown set of artists exploring new and different ways of creating psychedelic music reaching critical mass. While the mainstream music press bangs on about ‘nu gaze’ they have missed a much wider and larger development that has and still is producing amazing, mind expanding music.

So who and what am I talking about when I refer to new psychedelic music? There are three main strands of this phenomenon. The first is the noise scene of UK and North America  where wildly oscillating colourful music has become the predominant feature for the likes of Animal Collective (who’ve come a long way from their humble beginnings), Black Dice, Fuck Buttons, Holy Fuck and 8-bit legend Dan Deacon. Animal Collective are currently earning the most column inches but they were virtual unknowns prior to the 2007 release of ‘Strawberry Jam’, which coincidently is when the band hit upon a winning formula for their music. Both ‘Strawberry Jam’ and the commercially successful 2009 follow up ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’ showcased Animal Collective’s great musical achievements and exposed people to their contemporaries.

This scene also demonstrates that the genre is a step forward. Unlike Britpop this resurgence isn’t a retrograde movement looking through rose tinted glasses back to the ‘60s heyday of guitar and organ based psychedelic music. The employment of synthesisers, sequencers, drum machines, games consoles, toys, guitar effects pedals and circuit bending (the modification of musical and non musical toys to create new sounds) creates a digitised, corrupted version of psychedelia that is more in tune with the modern world. Occasionally these acts write lyrics with a similarly naive hippy vibe but by and large artists have shunned this in favour of a more modern post-irony lyrical slant. Much of the noise scene even avoids the use of conventional vocals. Though Animal Collective have two singers they treat the vocals as another instrument or effect in their music, veering from the disturbing and distorted to the ethereal and dub-like. Most importantly in a genre where it is difficult to establish yourself as unique and vital, to outsiders at least, all these acts have managed to achieve this, whether through a long development period like Animal Collective, Black Dice and Dan Deacon or a seemingly quick time in the case  of Fuck Buttons and Holy Fuck.

The next strand is the UK electronic and indie scenes that in recent years have received an injection of psychedelic sound. The main artists include Clark, Four Tet, The Big Pink and Maps. Over the last few years these acts have all released albums that resonate with their own unique sounds. Four Tet’s (Kieran Hebden) fourth album ‘Everything Ecstatic’ in 2005 delved into the relatively untouched worlds of late ‘60s psychedelic jazz of Art Ensemble of Chicago and Alice Coltrane and Krautrock (a German form of progressive rock) whilst retaining Four Tet’s originality. Hebden was a huge hip-hop fan and the joy he took in deconstructing and reconstructing these genres into a new sonic tapestry is indicated in the album’s title. Around this time his remix work shifted focus in the same direction and he began a fruitful relationship with Stone Throw Records and producer Madlib. The Krautrock influence would also rear its head again albeit in a colder form on the ‘Ringer’ EP from 2008. The next crucial release in this chain was 2006’s ‘Body Riddle’ by Clark on Warp Records. Though not the most obvious psychedelic album I’ve discussed it nevertheless reveals its twisted, swirling and dark heart with repeated listens. Like ‘Everything Ecstatic’ it uses modern hip-hop and R&B rhythms and production techniques to create a dense, evolving collage of sound to the extent that it feels as if ‘Body Riddle’ is the flip side of ‘Everything Ecstatic’ but where Four Tet looks backwards for his core influences, Clark uses modern sounds and electronic influenced noise to communicate a near pitch black sound of emotional turmoil. In 2007 these artists were joined by Maps (James Chapman) who released his multi-layered synthesizer heavy debut album ‘We Can Create’ to critical acclaim. The album was purely electronic music balanced with pop melodies. His sound is the most commercial that I’ll discuss but even Chapman is grounded in indie roots. Maps’ new album ‘Turning the Mind’ (2009) is true psychedelia. It takes the textures from his debut and adds new colours to what had been a very blue sound. ‘Turning the Mind’ is vividly colourful; resonating with bright reds, yellows and oranges yet there is a dark undercurrent to the sound, which is spoiled occasionally by Chapman’s naive lyrics and the odd Pet Shop Boys melody.

The latest arrival in this scene is the most hyped of the so called nu gaze bands The Big Pink. They combine electronic beats, guitar and synth sounds that owe to the original shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Jesus and Mary Chain and the Cocteau Twins and their sound has much in common with Maps’ debut but employs guitars instead of synths. The Big Pink recorded their debut ‘A Brief History of Love’ at Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in New York, stating that it helped create the vibe they wanted and ‘added a magic’ to it. Much like electronica and indie the noise scene is trying to forge a way forward instead of merely repeating past ideas and it has mostly succeeded in this aim in a time when this is near impossible.

The final strand is the underground hip-hop scene in the US andUK. The former is based around Stones Throw Records and Madlib and the latter helmed by Four Tet and Warp Records’ recent signing Hudson Mohawke. Though they are all different they have led to the creation of the first truly psychedelic hip-hop records and although the Beastie Boys and De La Soul had come close in 1989 with ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and ‘Three Feet and Rising’ and OutKast’s ‘Stankonia’ in 2002 was a brilliant tribute to classic Parliament/Funkadelic concept albums, Madlib is the first truly original psychedelic hip-hop producer. His name standing for Mind Altering Demented Lessons In Beats.

He is hugely prolific and flits between a vast array of black music genres but his work is always under the banner of hip-hop and almost always has a drugged feel. The high points of Madlib’s catalogue include the albums he released as Quasimoto  – ‘The Unseen’ and ‘The Further Adventures of Lord Quas’ in 2000 and 2005 and his work with MF Doom under the name Madvillian who released their debut ‘Madvilliany’ in 2004. He and Four Tet use hip-hop’s main weapon to create their unique sounds: the sampler. As Quasimoto Madlib created the weird vocal effects by slowing his beats down, recording vocals on top then replaying the vocals over the original beat. He also used his sampler and drum kit to create a disorienting dark world for MF Doom’s character Madvillain to live and breathe in for their album. This created a sound more akin to jazz or stoner rock music than traditional hip-hop. It was around the time of ‘Madvilliany’ that Madlib and Four Tet struck up a collaborative relationship and swapped remixes over the next year or so, many of which ended up on Four Tet’s ‘Remixes’ album. This then extended out into remixes of other Stone Throw artists and vice versa. Madlib has also worked under the guise of Yesterday’s New Quintet, in which he plays all four fictitious musicians and explores psychedelic jazz and incorporates influences from the Beasties Boys’ organic hip-hop and the atmospherics of Jamaican dub. With YNQ Madlib achieves his dual ambition of paying tribute to the styles of the past while being faithful to the progressive nature of jazz and his own innovative music.

Since signing to Warp Records Glaswegian producer Hudson Mohawke (Ross Birchard) has released the ‘Polyfolk Dance’ EP and debut album ‘Butter’. At first his sound was difficult to pin down but a little research revealed what made this strange brew. Mohawke grew up listening to soul and funk records and the rave tapes his cousin played and as a teenager he learnt the art of turntablism (becoming the youngest DMC UK champion at 15), which explains his unique sound that mashes together the luxuriousness of modern hip-hop, the day-glo noise of rave and found sounds and samples. ‘Butter’ is an apt title for a record that is so rich and textured yet has roughness indebted to the bass and found sounds and samples, lending the album an analogue feel evoking classic mid ‘70s Parliament/Funkadelic through a very modern filter. None of these three artists live in the same country but they have contributed to and influenced a new generation of hip-hop producers who can take these new ideas and twist them into varied shapes and sounds.

As stated earlier the music examined is not a retread of old psychedelic music genres but it would, however, be naive to suggest that these artists are rootless and are creating completely new music. There are three main components of influence, some of which interlink. The first is Krautrock or kosmiche music that originated in Germany in the late 1960s continuing throughout the ‘70s and up until the present day. Though many important Krautrock artists such as Kraftwerk, Neu!, Faust and Can have been canonised for their work the new breed of psychedelic artists also take their influences from the ambient organic work of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Cluster and Harmonia.

Tangerine Dream emerge as the biggest influence and indeed achieved the biggest sound and sales at their height. Their authority is detectable in the music of Animal Collective, Holy Fuck, Dan Deacon, Maps and Four Tet. Their music, which is comparable to the dense texture and melodic styles used by their successors, allowed ‘sound patterns to build up slowly and blend into one another’. The classical and silver-toned guitar of Ash Ra Tempel and Neu! can be heard on records by Four Tet, Clark and Hudson Mohawke (though they probably aren’t a direct influence on Birchard’s work). Rhythms and harmonies employed by Can are mirrored in the work of Holy Fuck and Four Tet and are closely associated with Madlib’s style with Jaki  Liebezeit’s drum breaks been a constant source for sampling for hip-hop and dance music since the late ‘80s. The colder, pre-industrial ambient sounds of Cluster and Harmonia have also found their way into the corners of material by Maps and Four Tet’s ‘Ringer’.

The next influence is closely associated with the Krautrock and kosmiche music artists discussed. It is best described as ‘70s synth music, a rough generic term bringing together the music of Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Isao Tomita (Japanese synthesizer artist famous for his reinterpretation of Gustav Holst’s symphony ‘The Planets’), Klaus Schulze (Tangerine Dream and Ash Ra Tempel) and others. These artists and their music were musically ambitious, taking  Krautrock’s expansion of the potential of synthesizers to a symphonic level. Vangelis began his career in Greek prog rock band Aphrodite’s Child and, like Schulze, managed a smooth transition to a more symphonic sound; in Vangelis’ case, to successful soundtrack work which includes ‘Chariots of Fire’ and ‘Blade Runner’ (1982). Tomita and Jarre made similarly bold synth-led, reverb drenched sonic adventures. Tomita produced his own brand of synth music and was a successor to the classical reinterpretations by Walter/Wendy Carlos. Jarre successfully turned this music into a commercially successful sound and created huge visual shows to compliment this. In 1977 Jarre hit the charts with ‘Oxegene IV’ in a breakthrough year for synth music, which finally saw Kraftwerk infiltrate the mainstream and Donna Summer top the charts with the Giorgio Moroder produced ‘I Feel Love’. This became the catalyst for Jarre’s burgeoning live extravaganzas and the proliferation of synth music worldwide in the following seven years.

Schulze represents a darker, more contemplative and less grandiose sound but no less layered. He came from what is now referred to as the Berlin School, an experimental selection of  Berlin-based artists determined to discover the very outer limits of what a synthesizer and music could do.

The multi layered, ambitious and synth heavy material of the acts listed above has had an influence on the similarly layered and luxurious sounds of Maps, particularly ‘Turning the Mind’, which explores interesting sonic and emotional depths, Four Tet, Holy Fuck, Hudson Mohawke, Fuck Buttons and Animal Collective.

The last strand of influence on new psychedelic music is the ‘90s shoegaze scene which featured the heavily processed guitar sounds of the recently reunited My Bloody Valentine (MBV), Slowdive, Ride and their predecessors the Jesus and Mary Chain (JMC) and Cocteau Twins. This scene varied from the feedback driven sound of MBV and JMC to the ethereal ruminative guitar sketches of the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie. The mainstream media have focussed on the ‘nu gaze’ scene but the influence of these acts has been evident for a while now. LCD Soundsystem covered ‘Slowdive’ by Slowdive in 2005; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s verbatim theft of JMC’s sound and image; and the constant comparisons of Jonsi of Sigur Ros’ vocal style with that of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. Although it was the reformation of My Bloody Valentine that really thrust the spotlight on those that were obviously influenced by shoegaze’s brand of guitar pedal  noise. This ‘nu gaze’ scene is led by The Big Pink, No Age, School of Seven Bells, Atlas Sound however many of these acts are merely derivative. The really interesting manifestations of the influence are mainly on the noise scene. Holy Fuck, Health, Animal Collective, Dan Deacon and Fuck Buttons all take something from shoegazing even when they’re not using guitars. Health are the most indebted to MBV and the other shoegaze bands but they have managed to create a more obtuse take on the original sound that has more common with noise’s roots than most shoegaze acts. The density of the music by Animal Collective and Dan Deacon has the feel of a less attack oriented version of MBV, JMC and Ride. You’re not being abused but there is enough edge that it’s not merely background music. As I mentioned in paragraph three, the use of vocals as another layer or instrument can be traced back to Liz Fraser’s vocal techniques and are present  or rather deeply buried in the music of Holy Fuck, Fuck Buttons, Animal Collective, Four Tet and Hudson Mohawke . The fetishisation of guitar pedals and their analogue sound is also evident in the sound of the modern psychedelic acts that I’ve discussed and is another tie to the original shoegaze bands.

Though all the artists I’ve discussed are in themselves unique and individual, this article demonstrates that the artists that influence them and the techniques used to achieve their sound interlink in various ways to show a broad landscape of sub genres and artists that make up a reinvigoration of psychedelic music. In a time where the majority of bands and artists struggle to free themselves from commercial pressure or the inevitable repeating of what they’ve been influenced by these artists are attempting individually and collectively to direct us forward and to expose us to experiences and music that we may not have heard or felt before.

The influence of Krautrock and synth music is keenly felt but unlike previous artists who have just taken on these influences e.g. Stereolab and Muse these artists have discovered ways of creating something of their own in the spirit of those who had gone before. Their influences all ploughed their own furrow and it is difficult not to fall under their shadow so I salute the work of the extraordinary artists who’ve taken the risk on making something even more adventurous and exploratory.

Here’s a Spotify playlist (HTTP links, then Spotify URL) so you can check out the bands mentioned in this post:

Psychedelia: The Return

Psychedelia: The Return

%d bloggers like this: