#43: My Bloody Valentine – I Only Said (1991)
Certain things in life ghost into view with quivers stuffed full with surprise. Items such as: music blog with a penchant for the whole shoegazing aesthetic – a music blog that happens to be simultaneously compiling a list of fifty favourite tracks – ends up lauding it up over a My Bloody Valentine record. Yep, never saw that coming – next I’ll be exclaiming that ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry is one of the finest pop songs of the last twenty years (and my tongue is firmly not in my cheek with that admission. I’ll defend that particular track to the hilt… although maybe not in a My Bloody Valentine post. It’s still true, mind).
Should you be in the business of describing the MBV sound, there’s an entire chapter of appropriate appendages in Your Big Book Of Dreampop Adjective for that very purpose, and you certainly don’t need me to add to the canon with my clumsy black hole terminology; all “gravity well” this and “event horizon” that residing between the constant references to “textured” and “depth”.
Then there’s the technical analysis. The clinical appreciation of just what it is that Kevin Shields does to sculpt such the distinctive guitar motif, as if he’s some Edwardian spiritualist summoning genuine ectoplasm during a phoney séance. The obvious inference is that it’s banks of noise filtered through a mass of effects pedals, when the ‘behind the curtains’ moment is actually a meticulous – perhaps excessive, definitely obsessive – manipulation of the same guitar trope via a succession of amplifiers until every available track underpinning the song is a crashing wave of distortion (if you played a musician ‘I Only Said’ for the first time, they’d suggest wah-wah pedal overdrive… when the reality is more akin to collage, or analogue surgery).
But I’m no musician, more the fan boy vainly attempting to catch an essence of just what it is about particular recordings that burn so exquisitely. And although I’m on record as bemoaning the gait of the production on the originals (the complete remastered back catalogue is available now, redefining the cut of the distortion, getting us far closer to the aural visions integral to Shields’ mind), when I listen to certain MBV tracks – and particularly when I listen to ‘I Only Said’ – the effect is the same as something spotted from the corner of your eye. A glimpse of movement in an empty house, enticing and otherworldly and utterly remarkable even though you’ll never be able to stare directly… because if you did, you couldn’t be certain it existed.
My Bloody Valentine / I Only Said