Sound — 8
My Bloody Valentine's first full length LP following numerous EP's with fluctuating members, this album marks MBV's classic lineup of Shields, Butcher, and Googe. Not nearly as "shoegaze" as Loveless, the album reflects more of MBV's punk influences and a glimmer of their early gothic sound. Often unfairly dwarfed by the enormous contribution of Loveless, Isn't Anything is no less deserving of praise as the pioneering album of shoegaze, even coining the term within the music press. Released in 1988, Isn't Anything was well ahead of the 90's shoegaze movement to follow. It also features a sort of departure from the more pop-oriented jangle on the "Strawberry Wine" and "Ecstasy" EPs and back to their more avant-garde ideas, with massive distortion and more layering than previous efforts. While the overall largeness of the sound is nothing compared to their sophomore album, Isn't Anything certainly shows where they were headed.
Lyrics — 7
Lyrics are fairly coherent. For about the first half of the album. However, the vocals aren't pushed back as far in the mix as Loveless and still play a prominent role in the overall soundscape. Shields often sings in the higher register while Butcher takes the lower, and their intertwining voices are just sweet and melancholic enough to suit the massive walls of distortion that speak about love and angst in the vague ways that people actually feel them. The opener, "Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside)", starts out with Colm's drums and Debbie's bass run, but is quickly overtaken by the careening crunch of Shields' guitar. Backing guitarist and vocalist Belinda Butcher provides rhythm and her nonchalant harmonies to add to the layering that so characterizes their sound.
Overall Impression — 9
This album often gets a lot of criticism for being inconsistent or simply not living up to quite the same perfection as Loveless. I hope those people realize that this was their first album. They didn't have all their ideas sketched out. Kevin Shield's himself has said the band never knew what they were doing half the time. Some of the more impressive songs include "Soft As Snow", "I Can See It", and the haunting "No More Sorry", one of the album's songs written and sung by Butcher. I would recommend listening to the slightly more esoteric (is anything of theirs?) Loveless first, and then see how you feel about Isn't Anything. The uninitiated fan may even find Isn't Anything more listenable.