[sic] Magazine

My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (1991)

Have really 20 years past since Kevin Shields and co firmly planted the sonic terror Loveless into the hands of Alan McGee at Creation Records? The record owner had by that time been driven to distraction working with the band and promptly dropped them from the label. He has attacked them ever since describing their reunion in 2008 as “nostalgic cabaret” and has recently compared Shields to Charlotte Church !

There must be some latent sympathy with the tortured McGee since Shields’s perfectionism was legendary not least as he attempted in a Brian Wilson -esque fashion to get the sounds in his head transplanted into a studio context. The result would see days of the band locked away producing nothing on tape and Creation record executives barred from the recordings. Indeed, more latterly the oft promised and almost legendary remaster of Loveless has been subject to more delays than the Arriva timetable with some eight release dates promised in the past 18 months. Many doubt it will ever appear, but it begs the question; does it need to?

Loveless , despite its chaotic genesis, is as a near as damn it to rock perfection that you will find on a vinyl disk. This is a record devoid of guitar solos, simple chord structures and traditional melodies. The clear intent behind it was to deconstruct the standard rock song by overlaying it with a plethora of manipulated sound frameworks and audible intransigence. Shields’s use of backward reverb, barely audible drums, swirling and twisted guitar instrumentation and all other kinds of studio wizardry was brewed up in to a sonic stew which sometimes borders on the overwrought but often is touched by the gods. The whole thing evades categorization with the term ‘shoe-gaze’ a convenient label that no longer fits.

Let us start at the end, since the epic final track ‘Soon’ that prefigures the baggy dance-oriented music of the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses , yet its glorious seven minutes is much more than a mere precursor. It starts off with a drum roll, bursts into action and then that famous coda begins leading to a massive cacophony of Shields’s ‘glide guitar’ and the erotically sweet vocals of one of rock’s best singers Blinda Butcher . Jump back to the opener. the revolutionary ‘Only Swallow’, where you are literally soaked in the huge wall of sound that literally smashes into your ears.

When this record was first placed on a turntable in 1991 the needle was re-set to the beginning since your reviewer thought this couldn’t be right. Repeated listens however engulf you in the legend of ‘Loveless’, with the chiming ‘Loomer’ coming close to the best song the Cocteau Twins never recorded. Equally, the blurred effect on the leviathan that is ‘To Here Knows When’ took months to record and it is hardly surprising that some 18 engineers worked on the totality of this record. It was sadly too much for my beloved father who one day in the early 90s questioned my sanity as the repeat button was again pressed on this stunner for the umpteenth time.

Lighter relief is provided by the poptastic ‘When You Sleep’, with its indecipherable Shields vocal and, of course, the sheer innovation of ‘I Only Said’, which seems to float above all the undulating guitar distortion created by the Irish maestro. Sophia Coppola ‘s Lost In Translation has turned the song ‘Sometimes’ into a movie classic as one of the best celluloid/music combinations ever. The lost expression of the glorious Scarlett Johansson riding in a neon-lit Tokyo taxi is an image that burns on your consciousness. Finally, there is the sadness of ‘Blown A Wish’ to soundtrack all your heartbreaks.

For many then Loveless is a bleary dream, for others it’s a fuzzy noise laden nightmare. Coming out in 1991 the record often draws comparison with Nirvana ‘s Nevermind in terms of impact and yet the only record that possibly matches Loveless ‘s peerless innovation is the earlier Marquee Moon by Television or The Velvet Underground and Nico .

Kevin Shields has never come close to matching this, although he has since enigmatically stated that to him the record feels like a ‘half formed version of something that could have happened which could have been a lot bigger’ . What is the absolute truth is that the BBC was unconditionally right in their review of Loveless when they stated ‘there really wasn’t, and still isn’t anything quite like My Bloody Valentine”‘.