One can get by on their shoegaze indoctrination without having heard the other My Bloody Valentine extended-plays, but if You Made Me Realise1 is skipped – well, that’s just inexcusable.
Prior to 1988, the Irish quartet dabbled in various styles of rock ranging from The Cure-esque post-punk to Byrdsian jangle rock, but it wasn’t until the addition of Debbie Googe on bass and Bilinda Butcher on guitars and vocals that the band finally got a stable line-up and a stable sound. 1987’s Strawberry Wine single demonstrated the group’s ability to create forward-thinking pop music with shimmering melodies with a hint of obfuscation, and the same-year release of Ecstasy showed trepidatious steps toward a full-length after years of middling extended-plays.2
You Made Me Realise is the first “real” shoegaze record in the group’s discography, which is a fact best demonstrated by none other than the title track. It’s more dissonant than anything ever recorded by the band up until now, starting off with two diminished guitar chugs and Shields/Butcher’s smarmy – yet provocative – lyrics toward a flame who “might as well commit suicide.” The track features overblown bass and barely-constrained usage of the tremolo pedal, which would evolve into Shields’ trademark “glide guitar” sound on Isn’t Anything and Loveless. The centerpiece of “You Made Me Realise” is a forty-second instrumental at the bridge that would morph into half-hour-long crescendos of feedback and noise during live concerts, earning the nickname “the holocaust section.” This song is one of the most arresting examples of early indie/alternative rock, and the precursor for shoegaze as a whole. The dichotomy between beauty and cacophony is a striking characteristic of My Bloody Valentine since Sunny Sundae Smile‘s ode to oral sex, but achieved the first hints of its true sonic potential here.
The b-sides are not to be forgotten. “Slow” is an ode to crazed sex juxtaposed with a plaintive guitar whirl (akin to that on “Glider” from the eponymous extended-play) and a throbbing bass line. Here, My Bloody Valentine has some of their most overtly graphic lyrics: “feeling like I never could / lick, lick, lick and suck, suck, suck / I want it slow, slow, slow, slow.” Nice. “Thorn” features a tremolo-picked lead and vocal harmonies via Shields with a bit of jangle rock rhythm guitar that bridges the Strawberry Wine and Isn’t Anything styles. It’s cute and rather pretty, with some more obsessive lyrics encouraging Shields’ lover to “walk all over [him].”
“Cigarette in Your Bed” is the least shoegaze influenced track on the album, almost entirely led by the band’s rhythm section with single-tracked, unrefined head-singing by Butcher. It’s a pleasant counterpoint to the craziness of the three previous songs, and is one of the few songs that feature Butcher’s voice as lead sans effects pedals or harmonizing. Finally, “Drive It All Over Me” is an indie ballad with the same overblown bass from “You Made Me Realise” and “Thorn,” except with multi-tracked vocals and a short folk-rock progression in the chorus.
You Made Me Realise is one of the best releases of the shoegaze genre; don’t let its status as an extended-play give the impression that it’s a collection of tunes that were not good enough to be on a full-length. It demonstrates the band’s first usage of extreme sound as a force of beauty rather than a gimmick, in addition to being one of the strongest albums to feature noise while skirting the umbrella of “extreme music.” It is a gorgeous and surprisingly understated collection of music, but perhaps that just makes it even more powerful. My Bloody Valentine has the ability to make hundreds of decibels feel as comforting as a lullaby – a sexy lullaby, that is.
1. You Made Me Realise – (3:44) – ★★★★★
2. Slow – (3:10) – ★★★★★
3. Thorn – (3:35) – ★★★★☆
4. Cigarette in Your Bed – (3:28) – ★★★★☆
5. Drive It All over Me – (3:05) – ★★★★☆
1Spelled as such because in the British Isles, “realize” is spelled as “realise;” as are a lot of words that have a “-ze” ending.
2Perhaps this is due to de facto bandleader Kevin Shields’ gaining creative control of the band without former lead vocalist David Conway. All of My Bloody Valentine’s best work came about when Shields was calling the shots. With Conway no longer steering the band toward the post-punk of the first few years, it’s like Shields finally got the creative control necessary to make the band shine.