My Bloody Valentine were geniuses way before Isn’t Anything and Loveless became nigh-inseparable from the words “shoegaze,” “best albums of all time,” and “mind-blowing sex playlist.” Don’t believe me?1 Check out the Sunny Sundae Smile extended-play, a short four-song/nine-minute ditty of a release that was the last to feature original vocalist David Conway. Behind the happy-go-lucky, carefree indie melodies and fine sheen of static that would evolve into the patented shoegaze sound, you’ll find some not-so-subtle references to graphic sex and perverted love. It’s a huge subversion of the standard silly/awkward love of which one typically thinks in context of early indie pop.
Exhibit A: “Sunny Sundae Smile” is a song about blow-job facials. Wow. Don’t be fooled by that jangly melody and prominent “let’s fall in love / it’s exciting” lyric. “I’m gonna make your mouth / a sunny sundae smile” indeed.
Exhibit B: “Paint a Rainbow” opens with the lyrics “earthen trail of slimy goo / I smear it on your cheeks like rouge.” Come again?2 It’s made even more suggestive (and disturbing) by the childlike, innocent action suggested by the song title.
Exhibit C: “Kiss the Eclipse” is a whole lot simpler and silly; just a brief love song about how “flowers nod their heads when she walks by,” which is actually quite cute in a (500) Days of Summer kind of way. “The sun never shines in your vacant eyes,” on the other hand, is a slap in the face.
Exhibit D: “Sylvie’s Head” is weird, with lyrics about a girl’s head doing all kinds of things: growing legs, being “better red than dead,” and having more space inside “than you’d think.” Another song about oral sex? Probably, and more.
Jesus Christ, band. On one hand, I’m impressed, because I was totally ready to write this off as another collection of ridiculous (if pleasantly so) indie rock love songs before I looked up the lyrics. On the other hand, I’m uncomfortable, and I regret writing this in a public coffee shop, but I’d probably feel even more gross if I were alone. I guess that’s when you know a band has the whole songwriting thing down pretty well.
1. Sunny Sundae Smile – (2:27) – ★★★★★3
2. Paint a Rainbow – (2:16) – ★★★★★
3. Kiss the Eclipse – (2:30) – ★★★★☆
4. Sylvie’s Head – (1:53) – ★★★☆☆
1Loveless ranks up there with Tricky’s Maxinquaye in the trippy/druggy-sex-music list.
2Pun intended. Yes, I’m very clever.
3I’m vaguely uncomfortable every time this comes up on my media playlists now. But I’m too impressed with the fact4 that it makes me uncomfortable to rate it anything less than five stars.
4I originally wrote “face” in place of “fact.” Good work.