When You Sleep – My Bloody Valentine (Loveless, 1991)
Ireland’s My Bloody Valentine is like alternative music from another universe. Originally assigned to the shoe-gaze music movement in the UK in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s, by the time they released their second album “Loveless” it was apparent they were above and beyond that narrow label.
“When You Sleep” the track chosen off of “Loveless” is a tour de force of audio dynamite that is inexplicable in it’s jagged, yet accessible, electronic wonderment. It’s bursts out of the speakers like a demented nursery rhyme with the electro little hook with what sounds like a backing of 50 guitars. It’s brutal yet beautiful. The vocals, if you can even make them out, are simple and sort of like garnish to a five-star musical meal. It appears the subject matter is a beautiful woman whom Kevin Shields, the genius and mastermind of the group, is in thrall with and it’s basically a song about his fascination with her.
As for the song itself, it’s so dense, dreamy and hard to penetrate that it takes several listens for the full effect to hit you. The tempo changes are fantastic and the lazy singing by Shields (who’s overdubs sound almost like Bilinda Butcher, the band’s usual vocalist) actually add to it’s ear-candy effect once you get past it’s overwhelming loudness, save for the last ten seconds which are a kind of way to catch your breath after a head-blowing experience. For me it’s the highlight of the album I lovingly call alternative rock’s “Pet Sounds” equivalent.
I first became aware of the song around 1992 or 93 when a classmate name-dropped MBV and how mind-blowing they were. In my curiosity I got the album and there were two tunes that I was able to wrap my head around, this one and the outstanding opener, “Only Shallow”. The rest it took me years of dedicated listening to comprehend and appreciate on a grand level. Hopefully it won’t take you so long, but have a listen and see if it might appeal to your sensibilities!
P.S. Thank you Jeff McGee of “Talking Toys with Taylor and Jeff” for the request!