KEVIN SHIELDS — “Are You Awake?” and “City Girl”

It’s part of a slightly cartoonish self-image I create, I admit, but my mania for the work of Mr. Shields and My Bloody Valentine isn’t feigned, really — it wasn’t when I first heard his stuff back in 1990, it wasn’t when I wrote this and it isn’t now. But after a baker’s dozen years since “Soon,” I wasn’t and I didn’t expect the world was going to end when some of his efforts from the Lost in Translation soundtrack — his first solo efforts credited as such, remixes and other participations in groups aside — surfaced. Lightning may strike twice but I think something so skycracking and vision-altering as those seven minutes I first heard of the band really probably is unique, however everyone’s experiences will differ.

And indeed, my world didn’t end, things didn’t suddenly rearrange, but I am pleased, not surprised, but content. “Are You Awake?” seems to be a nod after the fact to the likes of Seefeel, whose Quique is one of the few albums to have taken up the idea of a true electronic/blissout flow back in the early nineties (about half the laptop crowd seems now to be backing into a similar place). The beats are crisp and straightforward, a simple enough pulse, rather than muffled in chaos, guitar swirling in a distant haze and thoroughly softened. “City Girl” is a proper song-as-such that those who demand that from their art will be somewhat satisfied (lyrics still won’t be clear enough, though) — I’m nowhere near so choosy, and the song itself is nowhere near so striking, guitar but no tremelo queasiness, but plenty of ghost of late sixties Beach Boys melodic flow in the harmonies. It’s the fact that for all the sentiments of “I love you” and the like in the words there’s something just alien enough still, like Shields figured, “Well, it’s a sort of love song for a film, I guess I’ll do that for them…strange.” Who knows what next, if anything, but I’m all for someone spending their time figuring out new ways to gild a lily than just ignore it.

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