October 2, 2003

The Repeat Button: My Bloody Valentine

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Often, our music inevitably reminds us of film. In fact, there is much less separation between the two mediums than their semiotic difference connotes. Music can take on cinematic qualities, as vivid and descriptive songs jump from the sonic realm to the visual. Conversely, musical textures and soundtracks can sublimate the complex themes of a film into an aural splendor. The soundtrack to Sofia Coppola’s latest release, Lost in Translation, provides an example of the transcendental potential of music in film.

The My Bloody Valentine frontman, Kevin Shields demonstrates the power of matching well-composed music to the moving image. The standout track (though there’s some stiff competition from the likes of Death in Vegas, Air, and The Jesus & Mary Chain) is My Bloody Valentine’s “Sometimes,” characterized by voluptuous fuzz-fed guitar combined with dreamy synth melodies, topped off by Shields soft, breathy vocals. Call the sound noise-pop or the band shoegazers, whatever you decide, it’s clear this song deftly expresses both sharp pain and pure bliss. It is this contrast — the vocal yearning and distortion played against the uplifting countermelody — that gives the song its thrust.

Originally released on MBV’s Loveless, “Sometimes” fits into Translation so well it feels as if it were originally composed for the film. The song becomes the anthem of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s late-night exploits across the blurred, neon-glow of nighttime Tokyo. The warm, rumbling fuzz guitar followed by Shields’s ethereal voice intoning, “Close my eyes/ feel the high,” glides us off into a unique sensory environment. Fantasy, love, and despair linger in the lyrics and melody, as the song seems to tie them all into a single emotional experience. Coppola uses “Sometimes” to create a unique synesthesia that ties directly to the heart of the film. Translation breathes new life into this My Bloody Valentine classic.

Archived article by Andrew Gilman