Friday, November 2, 2007

No. 219: Loveless

Band: My Bloody Valentine
Album: Loveless
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: In addition to being a landmark in the way guitar is recorded, "Loveless" has gained something of mythical status as Kevin Shields falls more and more into oblivion. Probably the pinnacle of Britain's "Shoegaze" movement, "Loveless" is a masterpiece.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I don't know. I mean, on one hand, it's a wonderful album, but on the other not that many people care about shoegaze.
Best song: The first song, "Only Shallow" has just about everything one could want in a song, Bilinda Butcher's sweet vocals, the deafening big drums and, of course, the wall of guitars.
Worst song: None of that songs are that bad, though the final few songs run together a little.
Is it awesome?: Absolutely.

Quick, which record has

  1. been hailed as "one of the most influential and inspiring bands since the Velvet Underground" by noted rock critic Greg Kot

  2. a song that was praised by Brian Eno, saying that "[it] set a new standard for pop. It's the vaguest music ever to have been a hit."

  3. a vague influence on Radiohead, only the most interesting popular rock band of the past ten years

  4. Bob Pollard said "Sometimes when I want to write lyrics, I'll listen to Loveless. Because of the way the vocals are buried, you can almost listen to the songs as if they're instrumental pieces."

  5. influenced bands as diverse as the Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Mogwai, Blue, Oasis, Sigur Ros, Tortoise and Isis?

Obviously, you know it's "Loveless," one of the best albums to have been recorded in the 1990s. It's one of the most unique-sounding records ever recorded. The vocals are low in the mix and the guitars are remarkably layered.


What of the guitar sound? Shields claims that "it's actually got less guitar tracks than most people's demo tapes have," though I don't have any idea as to what that means. Nevertheless, the huge amount of distortion, reverb and delay Shields used made for something totally different and soaring.

Shields also used his tremolo bar while strumming, something basically unheard of in rock and roll until that point. This use of the trem bar reflected that band's influence from the Jesus and Mary Chain.


The guitar sound is probably the most famous thing about MBV and for good reason. Shoegaze isn't shoegaze without the droning, stacked upon one another guitar of Kevin Shields.

But what struck me about "Loveless" is the ability for the band's vocalists (Shields and the underrated Bilinda Butcher) to play off the guitar sound. Butcher's higher pitch again makes for a near-perfect combination; The juxtaposition of the twee sound with the near-chaos of the guitar makes for great, great music.


Again, I'm not sure that I can overstate how well-regarded and massively important "Loveless" is. However, I can point you here, FSU music student David R. Fisher's Master's Degree thesis on "Loveless." It's long (74 pages), but totally worth the read.

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