We’re bringing back For The Record, revisiting everything from old classics to forgotten favourites via the difficult second albums that we have a soft spot for. Kicking off the return, Matthew Thomas looks at My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless…
Sometimes it becomes difficult the pinpoint where the truth ends and legend takes over with Loveless. There is an abundance of reverence attached to the sophomore effort My Bloody Valentine that failure to conjure a follow up in 20 years has been excused and forgiven. Formed by Kevin Shields and Colm Ó Cíosóig in the early Eighties, this pioneering four-piece created a record that via tinnitus-induced whispers, has risen to the very top of critical acclaim.
Founded in Dublin, My Bloody Valentine swiftly moved from the standard indie template that had dominated that period into a bracket synonymous with the likes of Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. Transforming their sound into a dense, impenetrable wall, the band altered personnel and secured a contract with Creation records. Within a week, the band had recorded, mixed and released their landmark and widely celebrated debut EP, ‘You Made Me Realise’.
Prior to their 1991 all-conquering, ear-shattering gift, MBV had released the acclaimed and transformative album Isn’t Anything. Soon after, Shields began to prevaricating over their next release, in which Creation bosses Alan McGee and Dick Green shelled out over £250,000 in the pursuit of sonic perfection. An absurd and astronomical figure for an independent record label back then. MBV saw the band move from studio to studio, with a reported 19 different locations being used as Shields and co. struggled to create the ideas conjured in the lead up to Loveless. Shields had prioritized the exploration of feedback so much that the dreaded, barbaric howl of noise associated with amateurs was firmly moved into a category of sonic beauty.
Those who haven’t had the absolute experience of listening to this album are in for a treat. The snare roll and the subsequent wall of noise that rockets from the opening of ‘Only Shallow’ redefined rock at the time and has utterly withstood popular culture’s subsequent ebbs and flows. There wasn’t anything remotely similar, and still isn’t anything quite like My Bloody Valentine to this day. Many artists have tried to tweak, refine and breakdown the primal howls of distorted instrumentation before and after My Bloody Valentine, but it’s a testament to their enticing force that no-one has come close to impersonating them since.
The whole album is a sound collage with each song liquifying into the next. The elegant haze of ‘Blown A Wish’, the nostalgic crunch of ‘To Here Knows When’ and the momentary euphoria of ‘Soon’ are all standout tracks. The whole 48 minutes is an experience unlike nothing else. Regardless of the opinion formed, listeners will still remember the first time they heard that sound. ’Loomer’ fires out with pulsating fuzz, the subtle contrast of Belinda Butcher’s caressing whispers sounds when she sighs with a child-like tone. The track sets the standard for the rest of the record; beautiful, mind-bending, and graceful.
For one reason or another, no one bought the record when it was initially released and Creation dropped the band subsequently. In hindsight, Loveless is something the mainstream can process and celebrate, furthermore, Loveless isn’t the average album produced by most alternative bands in the late 80’s and 90’s. It’s a stand-alone, gleaming example of tireless sonic research. Despite the massive amounts of production put into it, Loveless isn’t necessarily an example of a band that is rhythmically tight or overly harmonised.
This is a record that transcends genres. Nevermind establishing the shoe-gaze genre, this album rises above it all like very few recordings ever have. Good music is timeless, from our inner and outer spaces, and this LP defines much more than what is initially heard. Loveless surely has to be one of the biggest statements in music ever, this album goes beyond alternative music and goes into realms of a land that only MBV know of. A powerful moment in 90’s rock and in music in general, Loveless is a masterpiece from first note to last.
Released: 4 November 1991
Produced: Kevin Shields & Colm Ó Cíosóig
1. Only Shallow
4. To Here Knows When
5. When You Sleep
6. I Only Said
7. Come in Alone
9. Blown a Wish
10. What You Want