So the My Bloody Valentine remasters are finally in shops and CD players, after years of me doubting they’d ever exist.
Except that Sony, brilliant company that they are, have royally screwed it up by mislabelling the two CDs in the new Loveless package. If you don’t know and can’t be bothered to read the article behind that link, CD1 is meant to be pretty much the same as the original CD release from 1991, but louder (and therefore better – the increased loudness is achieved sans digital limiting, apparently), whilst CD2 is a new master from the original ½ inch analogue tapes, and meant to be more ‘physical’. You can read Kevin Shields himself talk to Pitchfork about the difference between the two, and why they took so long.
So far I’ve not really “listened” to the new versions of Loveless. I put the one labelled as CD2 on as soon as I got it, but I’d not played the original in ages, and I was distracted by various other things at the time. Which is to say that I have no idea if the discs are mislabelled, or if there is a “weird digital glitch” 2:46 into What You Want on the disc labelled as CD1 (i.e. the mislabelled ½ inch analogue master tape version).
So this morning I took five minutes before work and listened for the tell-tale signs that distinguish the two CDs (complete silence rather than a second of hiss before the drums start on Only Shallow, and a longer, more complete fade-out on Soon distinguish the ½ inch analogue tape master).
Sure enough, if that’s the best way to tell, then the CDs are mislabelled; which is incompetent and bad proofing / product management, but not disasterous – spread the word, correct the error on the next print-run, and you’re sorted.
The glitch 2:46 into What You Want is more of an issue though, and it’s definitely there (on the disc labelled as CD1, which is probably the ½ inch analogue tape master – are you keeping up?). It’s weird, though, not like regular clipping on a really ‘hot’ master, but more like a fault in the tape that’s just on Bilinda’s vocal track or something. In the P4K interview linked above, Shields mentions sacrificing one instant of one track to digital limiting for the sake of the whole album, but it seems that he’s talking about the straight remaster there, rather than the ½ inch analogue tape version. The glitch does sound digital, but then again this is Loveless; one person I convinced to buy it many years ago emailed me after listening to it for the first time to ask if it was likely the CD could be warped.
If Shields is as much of a perfectionist as he’s meant to be, as he talks about being in that P4k article, then it’s hard to fathom that this glitch could be an avoidable mistake, unless it is some monstrous cock-up by Sony. Which is entirely possible, and there’s a huge amount of “Emperor’s New Clothes”isms possible with subjective listening to minutely different masters of the same mixes of songs (I’m sure the very same master could be on both discs and some people would swear blind they can hear a difference), and Sony is a major record label and major record labels are as psychotic and sociopathic as any big business, but they’re not as dumb and incompetent as EMI. Are they?
Actually, thinking about it, there’s an errant and incorrect apostrophe on the EPs 1988-1991 sleeve spine. This whole project is in tatters.