Are you an indie kid in the late-eighties who heard My Bloody Valentine’s1 epicene noise rock single Strawberry Wine and wanted a full-length version? Well, here it is. Sorta. Ecstasy is the second mini-album and sixth overall release by the Irish quartet. Having found a stable line-up with the addition of Bilinda Butcher on guitars and vocals, Ecstasy was recorded in tandem with Strawberry Wine; it was released only fourteen days after the latter.
This is the most “twee”2 of the My Bloody Valentine releases. The first four albums were out-and-out post-punk with a few hints of noise experimentation popping up with Sunny Sundae Smile and The New Record by My Bloody Valentine. The releases from You Made Me Realise onward completely forsook the jangle rock of Ecstasy and Strawberry Wine for experiments in pedal effects and abstract song textures on top of harder rock melodies. Ecstasy features some of the lightest tracks ever recorded by the band in their relatively uncomplicated nature and eschewment of obfuscation.
Lyrics are mostly about unrequited and lost love, as per “She Loves You No Less,” “I Don’t Need You,” and “Clair.” They’re fragile, and almost a step backwards after the subversive love themes of Sunny Sundae Smile due to their detachment and banal word choice. Shields’ choice to sing in his lower register has extremely mixed results; “Clair” is pretty decent in the juxtaposition of Shields’ voice with Butcher’s airy delivery, but “The Things I Miss” is just lethargic for a band who typically revels in painting vivid pictures of the dreamlike.
The rhythm section is on point here: both Googe and Ó Cíosóig deliver some seriously dancey, body-moving lines on tracks such as “I Don’t Need You” and “(Please) Lose Yourself In Me.” There is not much noise underpinning here, with the exception of “Clair” – a track that features a two-chord jagged riff toward the bridge that predates the similar technique utilized on You Made Me Realise. It’s an early example of what My Bloody Valentine termed the “holocaust section” in their live performances, during which the band would hold a single riff for upwards of thirty minutes to completely saturate the listener in noise.
Ecstasy is a fairly average album of indie/jangle rock along the lines of early R.E.M. or The Byrds with a bit of eighties production effects. It’s not too bad – “Clair” is excellent – and although Strawberry Wine is far more necessary, Ecstasy may be more than just a curious historical artifact from the band’s history right before the bombshells that would be the Isn’t Anything era, where My Bloody Valentine tenderly slapped the music world in the face.
1. She Loves You No Less – (2:34) – ★★★☆☆
2. The Things I Miss – (2:56) – ★★☆☆☆
3. I Don’t Need You – (3:07) – ★★★★☆
4. (You’re) Safe in Your Sleep (From This Girl) – (2:31) – ★★☆☆☆
5. Clair – (2:32) – ★★★★★
6. You’ve Got Nothing – (3:41) – ★★★☆☆
7. (Please) Lose Yourself in Me – (3:26) – ★★★☆☆
[UPDATE 14 March 2016: Changed overall rating from three-and-a-half stars to three stars.]
1… because apparently I can’t stop writing about this fucking band.
2The British equivalent of “indie,” except with a capricious and light connotation.