Well, just to see if my memory deceived me, I bought Isn't Anything on CD having long since lost my cassette of it. Listening to it again, I find nothing to shift me from my conviction that Loveless is clearly the superior effort. To my ears, Isn't Anything is en route to Loveless, an audition. It's the sound of a band whose irridescence has yet to fully emerge from the calloused rock skin they still had to slough off in order to become what they were. Compared to the celestial idiolect of Loveless - absolutely singular, absolutely unlike anything else - Isn't Anything is recognizably eighties alt.rock, albeit given a twist, but it's not transfigured, notsurpassed. (Whilst manifestly their superior, it isn't a million miles away from the indiethrash of The Shop Assistants or The Primitives). Rock's grammar and structure are retained and respected, with bass, drums, guitars, vocals mixed separately; there is none of - or rather only a hint of - Loveless' dizzying synaesthesia. Unlike Loveless' globules of sonic sorcery, these are songs that seem to have their origins in live performance.
Isn't Anything is rooted in its time in a way that Loveless is not. Dare I say it, Isn't Anything still has an Indie clumsiness (mark especially the often clodhopping drums). I expect it's precisely this jejeune quality that people find winning. And I suppose what many enjoy in the album, its variations - of tempo, mood, sound - what I think people are calling its 'dynamics' - are what I now find frustrating, distracting. The erotic paradoxes the words allude to, the andrognynous ambisexuality ('women have sex organs just about everywhere' - Irigaray) remain (largely) gestural, not yet sonically embodied. The MBV of Isn't Anything stick to the post-Mary Chain formula of buzzsaw plus sweet harmony, keeping Yin and yang elements oil-and-water-separate, deriving a thrill from their juxtaposition or their overlaying, not integrating - or better yet disintegrating - them as they will in Loveless' bitches' brew. Loveless is not a wall of sound - hard, impenetrable - but a fog, dissipative, yielding, clammily intimate. On Isn't Anything Rock's urgencies, its climactic logic, hold the whip hand; you are hurried along, kept at a distance, not enveloped, not drowned, not dreamt. Not yet.Posted by mark at March 26, 2004 07:09 PM | TrackBack