My No.1 album of all-time: My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

Posted on August 22, 2014



1. My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

Few could have seen this coming. After their Dinosaur Jr. sounding debut LP, Isn’t Anything? was released, who knew that their next turn would lead to this? The story goes that My Bloody Valentine in the creation of Loveless nearly bled their label, Creation dry according to MD Alan McGee. But then, he’s one that likes a good story. But if true, it’s worth every penny and maxed out overdraft. ‘Loveless’ is my no.1 album because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard and nothing’s left a more indelible mark etched on me ever since.

With enough guitar pedals to play tremolos causing tremors on the Richter scale, Ireland’s finest band named after a B-movie (and aren’t world peace botherers) almost defied the laws of physics and music production. The reason Loveless took forever to be released was because of Kevin Shield’s perfectionism, meticulously casting his ears and eyes over every single note and effect on this record.

“When Loveless was released, few touted it as a revolutionary record,” notoriously reclusive singer/guitarist Shields said in 2004. And ever since its release in 1991, there’s not been a single record that has matched it in terms of imagination. And to think that this album was overshadowed by Nirvana and Pearl Jam back when it was first released. But in the midst of being stuck in the crowd, they had very few peers.

In fact, it’s quite possibly the most original album of the decade, or possibly in the last 20 years. And what’s more, the record’s atmospherics and sound have become more influential than ever, even after all this time.

“I just kind of found my own way, and my own feel, my own way of playing,” Shields said of his ax modulations in Mike McGonigal’s book-length analysis of Loveless from 2007. “I found that if there was only one guitar track whilst the vocals were going, split between different amps and mics, the sound was bigger, especially when you use open strings and tunings and the tremolo arm. I didn’t have to consciously think about it; I was able to express this constant feeling of expression. It’s hard to explain the sound of the guitar bending. What you hear is what it is between the sound.”

Just the album cover alone gives a clear, yet hazy indication of what to expect: a pink, opaque, slow-motion-depiction of a hand strumming over a Fender Jag – the last word when it comes to guitars for shoe gaze.

From the hypnotic drums, the buried vocals and abstract loops entailed on Loveless, every listen provides something new that I’d never noticed before. It took me to a place musically as well as my personal self that I’d always imagined existed, but never in reality. I could close my eyes and envision myself floating across the hazy skies above the clouds.

Opener “Only Shallow” sets the tone for Loveless almost right from the off with ethereal, undecipherable vocals, punishing tremolos and looping drum machine. “Sometimes” has the addition of acoustic guitar with slightly clearer vocals from Shields, but enough to be thrown off by the amount of reverb from said tremolos. Final track “Soon” set a new trend for pop songs, even for dance music. Every track is also the perfect length. Not too protracted to look at the time elapsed and not too short to make you yearn for more.

The genius of Loveless though lies not in the songs itself per se, but more it’s revolutionary stance and the legacy it carries to this day. Trailblazers such as Radiohead, Deerhunter, Mogwai, Smashing Pumpkins have all come close but haven’t quite got that cigar. If nothing else, Kevin Shields confirmed his status as one of music’s greatest eccentrics thanks to this sonically groundbreaking album. And rightly so.

Some also-rans that get an honourable mention (i.e. the ones I haven’t forgotten about):

At The Drive-In – Relationship Of Command

Bad Brains – s/t

Arcade Fire – Funeral

Minor Threat – Complete Discography

Fugazi – Repeater

Elliott Smith – Either/Or

Mission Of Burma – Vs.

Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me

TV On The Radio – Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

Wire – Pink Flag

Pavement – Wowee Zowee

Slint – Spiderland

Lift To Experience – The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads

The Strokes – Is This It

Dr. Dre – The Chronic

Gang Starr – Daily Operation

Wu-Tang Clan – 36 Chambers

Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

GZA – Liquid Swords

The Clash – London Calling

Stone Roses – s/t

Gang Of Four – Entertainment!

Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights

Echo & The Bunnymen – Ocean Rain

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs

Lightning Bolt – Dracula’s Mountain

Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster – Horse Of The Dog

Death From Above 1979 – You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine

Battles – Atlas

The Futureheads – s/t

Tom Waits – Rain Dogs / Small Change

Teenage Fanclub – Bandwagonesque

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