My Bloody Valentine are the archetypal shoegaze band. Their ethereal, shimmering sound has not only been imitated countless times, but forms the basis for many comparisons. Loveless, their landmark (and as it turned out, roadblock) album marked a modern masterpiece and the culmination of the band’s distinctive contribution to indie music.
I say culmination because Loveless came with a trail of undoubtedly, but only marginally, lesser releases. Although the stories of the massive expense of the album’s recording are likely apocryphal or at least exaggerated, it was by most accounts a tortuous process: with Kevin Shields playing the role of Torquemada, shaping and fashioning the layered epic of Loveless. It was the apex of their sound, shoegaze taken to its farther extension. Purer and more focused, yet hazier and more impenetrable than that which came before it, it was from at least one artistic dimension an end for My Bloody Valentine, the final coup de grace.
Undeniable though its claim to mastery of the form may be, Loveless does not quite stand alone and the preceding recordings have much to recommend them. Personally, the album in isolation was quite enough to get me hooked on MBV’s sound, but for some shoegaze is a capricious entity. Perhaps, and this is a valid point, listeners prefer the more basic spread of Isn’t Anything to the stratospheric character of Loveless; a relative earthiness to counterpoint the final rarefied sculptings of the 1991 swansong. In any case, the earlier My Bloody Valentine is comparatively more mundane – only comparatively, mind you – than its later transcendent form.
You could hardly call MBV punk, yet their earlier efforts are more straightforwardly rocky, not entirely the blissed-out cloudscapes that they are usually associated with. Hence I present you with the You Made Me Realise EP, whose title track features a heavy melodic breakdown in the midst of the characteristic shoegaze-y elements; indeed it kicks off with the same pounding rhythm, sounding somewhat like something Shotmaker could have written. A little frantic, a little high-strung, a little piece of indie music momentarily washed-up on the shores of hardcore:
 Def: "Shoegazing (also known as shoegaze or shoegazer; practitioners referred to as shoegazers) is a genre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s. It lasted until the mid 1990s, peaking circa 1990 to 1991... the musicians in these bands often maintained a motionless performing style, standing on stage and staring at the floor while playing their instruments; hence, the idea that they were gazing at their shoes. The shoegazing sound featured extensive use of guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blended into the creative noise of the guitars. Few shoegazers were dynamic performers or interesting interviewees, which prevented them from breaking through into markets in the United States" - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/shoegaze.
 Asobi Seksu and Jesu come to mind, both as examples of conscious imitation and of imposed comparison. Kind of at opposite ends of the ‘nice’ spectrum, though. I haven't listened to Asobi Seksu, although they do get some good radio time; this limited issue 7" is pretty nifty. However, I don't really warm to Jesu (see  below).
 My Bloody Valentine, Loveless. Creation Records, 1991. (Hey, blend/sbj - Harvard style footnotes!)
 Principally the full-length Isn’t Anything, the Feed With Me Kiss and You Made Me Realise EPs, but also the Glider and Tremolo EPs which took songs from Loveless.
 For further reading – seriously, this is very detailed and interesting - see this Florida music student’s dissertation on the album: http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses/available/etd-04102006-103749/.
 Capricious, adj. – from the Italian caprice, lit. ‘hedgehog’; see my previous post on Envy’s Insomniac Doze (Sonzai/Rock Action, 2006) for a discussion of shoegaze and its accessibility.
 My Bloody Valentine, Isn’t Anything. Creation Records, 1988; in its time as influential as Loveless but in places lacks the latter’s focus and cohesiveness. Similar artistic style and layout.
 A key critical debate on Loveless is whether it is best described as ‘druggy sex’ or ‘sexy drugs’. There is a general consensus, however, that it approximates to the ‘sound of angels fucking in a pink haze’. See here: http://www.punknews.org/review/1630
 Shotmaker, Complete Discography 1993-1996. Troubleman Unlimited, 2000; seminal hardcore/emo band from Ottawa. Seriously recommended is their split EP with Maximillian Colby; see also Three Penny Opera 1 2.