Over time, My Bloody Valentine has grown to be one of my favorite bands. I didn’t actually hear ‘Loveless’ until around ’98, and I had a good 5 years of listening to just that album and none of their other ones. As with many music fans I was pulled in with the critic’s darling and most celebrated album, but eventually discovered their varied material beyond that.
MBV exists in a blissful medium, between gorgeous melody and awe-inspiring experimentation and depth; creating a sublime, perhaps even spirit-enhancing experience for the listener. This sound is exemplified on their landmark opus (their best overall album), but also touched upon in 1988 and even earlier. What existed on 1988’s ‘Isn’t Anything’ hinted at what was to come, but was a little more streamlined and a lot more catchy (i.e. “I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It)”).
They’d also bust out a heavier punk rock sound with buzzing, distorted bass lines and dissonant chords, but all arranged with their familiar pop sensibilities… check out “You Made Me Realize”:
Music production is almost as important to this band as anything else, infinite sustains and multiple-layered drones are expertly (or luckily?) placed forming a sound that has extraordinary depth and detail. Using the studio as another instrument was not a totally novel idea by this point, but the controlled chaos of distortion, delays, reverb and numerous other effects has been rarely duplicated with such mastery.
If My Bloody Valentine were the ethereal new realm of rock n’ roll, Lemmy’s Motorhead continued to truck along a well worn, exhaust fume laden path. By 1988, the band was about 13 years running (coincidentally, I am almost as old as Motorhead). It is always amazing to think how many shows Lemmy has done… at top speed:
Motorhead are the originators of high octane, quick paced heavy metal. They are arguably just as important as Black Sabbath for the wide array of sounds from the heaviest music genre on earth. Having recently just watched the ‘Lemmy’ documentary, I was impressed at how genuine the guy is, if there was any question. One of the world’s greatest rock n’ roll stars, he’s a living legend still living in the same apartment.
But 1988 was more about new sounds, such as Living Colour’s debut album ‘Vivid’. Perhaps the birth of something I would probably call Soul Metal if I had been a writer at the time, virtuoso guitarist Vernon Reid‘s band Living Colour combined very tuneful, powerful vocals with a complex, hard rock meets heavy metal sound. On wikipedia, they go with the term “funk metal”, but at the center of their sound is the rhythm section of Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish, who can play just about any style, and the vocals of Corey Glover. In 1988 their sound was popularized (but never really duplicated by other bands), with “Cult of Personality”, still one of their greatest songs:
1988 was also the year when Bill Hicks started to really rip into the establishment. This performance is full of fiery wit, and harsh criticism of Ronald Reagan in an era that was dominated by republican politics (which seem quaint by comparison to today’s neocons and might morphin power tea baggers). But part of Hicks’ appeal is his live presence: his comedic timing and entertaining sound effects… not just his philosophy or thought-provoking material:
(I wish I could time travel to see a live Bill Hicks at a comedy club!)
A blog post on 1988 would not be complete without a reference to Weird Al’s album, ‘Even Worse’, and the subsequent hit video that went with it. Nor could I possibly neglect to mention one of my favorite movies… They Live!