The last few months have been quite boring for me. I have spent my spare time flipping randomly between weird genres that only exist because of Soundcloud algorithms and insular communities of weirdos who spend much of their time fighting between themselves over who is better at tuning the voice of fake Japanese women… Oh, and 90s rock, of course. Occasionally I considered getting in on this new trend in which everyone LARPs as a Buffy the vampire slayer character and while I would be very happy to dress like Angel or Spike I will probably leave this to full time Spice Girl cosplayer and part time musician Beabadoobee who would likely make a brilliant Willow. So instead we are looking at an album that I hold such a bias for that the score would be 5 stars without any doubt in my mind. The album we are talking about is of course Loveless by My Bloody Valentine if the title of this article did not tip you to assuming that in the first place.
Loveless had a tumultuous production cycle with 2 to 3 years spent in the studio (Depending on your sources) and a half a million dollar bill to show for it. For everyone involved except the musicians this was likely a horrendous scenario, but happily the music to come out in the end was rather good. The album could be described overall as a cacophony of sounds with every instrument having every single possible effect thrown at it with the washed out and crushing use of reverb like we hear from bands such as Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain with the distortion of Sonic Youth while keeping it pop enough to actually catch the eye of a more mainstream audience. This was likely done with the hundreds of hours spent in the studio with known perfectionist Kevin Shields twiddling knobs until everything was completely perfect. It, along with Souvlaki, are Shoegaze and it threw the genre from a throng of different disparate ideas coming from post punk, dream pop and a multitude of other genres into forging its own path forward.
Loveless has vocals but I honestly have no clue what they are saying throughout as it blends in as another aspect to the wall of sound. It is simply another aspect of the project: it is given no special place nor is it put above other instruments in the mix, instead the song’s tone and feeling is created through its soundscape of layered guitars, bass, drums and samples. If you have a penchant for your songs to have some form of actual meaning whether that be deeply metaphorical or in your face you’re not getting that here but for those curious few I have done some research, which means I went on genius and read the song lyrics. Turns out every song is about relationships and sex which clearly means this album is actually no better than any pop album ever made. Not that it mattered, this was not a Bob Dylan record or Jane Austen novel, fantastic prose has never been Kevin Shields’ strong point with his abilities more lying in the creation of lots of, albeit interesting, noise.
My Bloody Valentine never allowed for singles, but ignoring this band’s overall strange approach to both the making and the subsequent distribution of their album it has some clear standouts in its 48 minute runtime. The albums first track Only Shallow is a relatively approachable intro in comparison to much of the album ahead but also really encapsulates the sound heard throughout with softly spoken lyrics drowned out by layered guitar and repeating motifs which really need you to listen to as no review can really portray the sound properly without plunging the depth of every single overused metaphor for sounds.
When You Sleep is about as pop friendly as the album ever gets coming in at just over 4 minutes and having both somewhat intelligible lyrics, a somewhat simple pop formula and a catchy melody to go along with it all brought under the umbrella of this noisey, abrasive yet darkly ethereal approach to rock that cannot be mistaken for being the ideations of any other band. Sometimes does little new from the earlier tracks with a similar soundscape of repeating melodies and instrumentation but that allows for a meditative state that I can’t personally get from any other song on the album. Its 5 minute runtime seems to be over as soon as it’s begun as you become entranced in this oppressive droning melody with layers of vocal and keyboard being added on throughout. And as you begin to repeat these tracks you begin to pick out subtle moments that were otherwise unnoticed and truly do get to appreciate the unprecedented levels of detail many of these tracks have recommended this album to be listened to on your own, with headphones and preferably in a dark room.
Though the album has gone on to sell an estimated 225,000 copies and had positive reviews across the board from critics because of tensions between the band and label My Bloody Valentine were dropped after the album. The album has had across the board praise from their contemporaries with seemingly the only contrary opinion being from the once relevant Alan McGee who called My Bloody Valentine ‘Overrated’, but then again maybe I would find it hard to appreciate such an album when I have spent half a million on its creation and had to deal with Kevin Shields.