My Bloody Valentine was a glimmer of hope for something new and organic in the conventional landscape of pop, new wave, and glam metal. They were the prototype for every Alternative act that would come through like a radioactive tornado and terrorize the mundane commercialism of those one-hit wonders and fun-loving, party rock boneheads; a band to bestow a sense of unorthodox complexity and knowledge for valid musicianship.
The crux of the band lies within the genius of frontman and guitar sorcerer, Kevin Shields. Like Jimi Hendrix, he introduced a new template for what could be done with the guitar. By using reverse digital reverb, tremolo manipulation, distortion, graphic equalizer, tone controls, and countless effects pedals wired to large amplifiers that are raised to ungodly levels for maximal sustain. In 1984, he formed My Bloody Valentine in Dublin, Ireland with childhood buddy and drummer, Colm O’Ciosoig; they derived their name from the 1981 horror film of the same name. Soon they would find the missing pieces in guitarist and vocalist Bilinda Butcher and bassist Debbie Googe after several different lineup changes.
They put out two records before calling it quits, only to re-form ten years later, releasing their third album in 2013; twenty-two years since their seminal album, Loveless. But it’s all about quality over quantity, and My Bloody Valentine are a band of pure quality. And here at ClassicRockHistory.com, we pride ourselves in giving you, our dedicated readers, information on great bands and artists you might not have heard of, so if My Bloody Valentine is a band you’ve never listened to before, then this Top 10 My Bloody Valentine Songs list is just for you.
# 10 – No More Sorry
My Bloody Valentine put out a few EP’s before synthesizing newfangled soundscapes that would be their first full-length album, Isn’t Anything, released in 1988. This nonstop vacuum of wall-to-wall noise, which was an ingenious neighborhood of rock that would soon spawn a large chunk of the nineties Alternative scene, never sounded more appetizing to the ears.
The antithesis of over-the-top guitar amplification and soothing vocals clashing with one another makes for some great ambiance. No More Sorry is an ominous fluttering of Kevin Shields’ ability to make his guitar sound like mammoth-sized violins scratching against his sleepy voice.
# 9 – You Never Should
This song has a more uplifting spirit to it, melody-wise. The lyrics, however, are traditional ravings of a man’s undeniable love for a woman who continues to play with his mind and heart. It has that essence about it that just reeks of sunny afternoons during summer, driving through the open road in a convertible with its top retracted; this is the music that leaves the lost innocence reminiscing.
# 8 – Glider
My Bloody Valentine put out two EP’s before releasing what would be one of the best albums of the nineties, and one of those EP’s, Glider, featured an instrumental cut of the same name; it’s such a nifty little tune that it just had to be included on this list. It exhibits some slight traces of glitch rock with its continuous loop of more violin-like strumming, and it’s just so simple that you just have to appreciate what was accomplished in creating this peculiar breed of playing.
# 7 – To Here Knows When
There are albums that define an era of music; each epoch ranging from the fifties, sixties seventies, eighties and nineties had those certain bands and musicians who shook the world in some way. It would be a pitiful misrepresentation not to put their 1991 album, Loveless, on the pedestal of worship it so rightly deserves; there are countless albums that get overrated, and this one is no different, but that’s why it’s so good.
It’s just one of those records you have to listen to before you die; even if you don’t like it, you can still say you’ve listened to it. The main aspect of its praise goes to its lucid instrumentation, thanks to a song like To Here Knows When; the level of serotonin secreted from the speakers as this plays is enough to send your imagination to a Utopian island of carefree relaxation.
# 6 – Lose My Breath
If there’s one other attribute about MBV that should be lauded, is that Bilinda Butcher has a memorizing set of pipes to her. It really is a treat being subdued by an incredible musical performance that isn’t just a set of guitars, sampled feedback, or percussion; she really makes every song of theirs a lot better when her voice is either in the forefront or in the shadows. Such a crestfallen and harmoniously awesome tune this is.
# 5 – I Only Said
As we find ourselves halfway through our Top 10 My Bloody Valentine Songs list, we have to continue on with more Loveless cuts. This particular song not only has a calm air to it, but that descending riff throughout is probably what it most likely sounds like inside of a cat’s drifting thoughts as it lounges on a pillow padded with peaceful slumber; believe these statements: This is the best music to fall asleep to.
# 4 – Sometimes
It’s probably a tad bit difficult deciphering some of the lyrics being sung over the reverberation of shoe-gaze, but underneath a song like Sometimes is a woeful profession of attraction to the love of one’s life. There’s definitely a human understanding of the prose that sort of goes beyond the sappy overtones and subsumes itself within the forest of fuzz and tremolo. The distinctive style that’s rife all over the song is a style that can be heard in the early days of Smashing Pumpkins; Billy Corgan cited MBV as an influence on him, so it’s understandable.
# 3 – Off Your Face
Time for a slight detour into the Glider EP again. Off Your Face is probably the band’s most straightforward song on this Top 10 My Bloody Valentine Songs list; the instruments are properly adjacent to one another, and Bilinda Butchers vocals, while not entirely understandable, still remain relative to the meat of the song; the lyrical disgust for the hatred of ones own indifference creates an emotional profundity of the swimming chord progression. The last two minutes, however, tilts towards some torpor moans and hums all courtesy of Shields, Butcher, and Shields’ guitar.
# 2 – Soon
This is the song to end such a groundbreaking album. Every cosmic quality that inhabited the band is drawn through a siphon and expelled into the speakers. Soon is a more upbeat construction of percussive rhythm, with most of the emphasis going towards the comber of chords gliding in and out of their great Wall of Sound. And going back to the obscured vocals once more. MBV was a lot more meticulous on this subject than one might think; they stated that the obscurity of the vocals was deliberate and that there is nothing worse than bad lyrics. Everyone can agree on that assessment almost surely.
# 1 – Only Shallow
If Soon was the song to end the invigorating journey of Loveless, then “Only Shallow,” was the song to begin the said journey. What is there to say about a song like this? Well, first off: It was one of the leading singles from the album that introduced the world to their phenomenal sound. It was the song to display a technique coined by Kevin Shields known as “glide guitar,” and this is achieved by heavy usage of the tremolo arm while strumming; its wavering effect bends the strings in and out of tune.
It was the sound that confounded many musicians who were in total awe of its complex-but-entirely-complex cleverness. Only Shallow was the perfect introduction to a brief career that unfolded into a widespread legacy still felt by modern music. It was easily our choice for the No 1 position on our Top 10 My Bloody Valentine Songs list.
Top 10 My Bloody Valentine Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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