An ugly duckling matures gracefully
Barely a month goes by without some rock journalist from Mojo or Uncut mentioning MBVs Loveless and saying that it is the best album of its era or genre, but hardly anybody ever mentions Isnt anything. Shortly after buying Loveless in 1992, I proclaimed it a work of genius and set about acquiring everything that MBV had previously recorded. I suspect that a lot peoples record collections evolve in this way, in my case there a lots of bands whos albums I meant to buy but didnt ever quite get around to it which accounts for a number of odd albums.
Collecting MBV records was pretty easy as there arent too many of them and with stunning singles like You made me realise, it was a fruitful pastime. However, when I bought Isnt anything, and hurried home to play it, I can honestly say that I was disappointed. Im not sure it was that I was expecting to hear, as lets face it, most of Loveless takes a few plays to penetrate the distortion and acknowledge the tune amongst the cacophony.
Isnt anything, seemed like too much distortion to penetrate and didnt seem to offer the hidden hook lines like its successor. So like many other albums that didnt meet expectation, I put it with all of my other CDs and forgot about it.
A few years later, and after acquiring two kids and a mortgage, I found that I still had a thirst for records but no money to spend. A logical thing to do was to play all of the records that I had never got around to playing. This of course included Isnt anything. I found that one or two tracks were quite good after four or five plays. Then I must have got some money and bought some new stuff and Isnt Anything was again left to gather dust for a few years.
It wasn’t until having the flu in 2004 and being virtually housebound that I decided to give the album another chance as I couldnt get out to buy anything new. My thirst for new records again drove me back to it. In certain respects, it became more difficult to play as my partner and kids hated it. It was then that it all began to make sense and come together and became a truly enjoyable experience as opposed to a chore to play it. I had changed my mind about this record.
It was no longer an impenetrable drone of distortion but the best thrash and arguably amongst the most sophisticated in my collection. I would recommend anybody to play When you wake (youre still in a dream) at maximum volume 6 or 7 times to attempt to get the true measure of this album.
Kevin Sheilds remains a character of huge intrigue like a latter day Syd Barrett in how he has evaded the media, lived a reclusive life and took over 10 years to re-enter a studio. Persuaded by Sophie Copola, he returned for the soundtrack of Lost in Translation and didnt disappoint. His masterpiece, Loveless, will be celebrated for years to come but it is worth bearing in mind that Isnt anything is a fairly interesting album too.