Author: Bruce Jenkins  Date Posted:24 May 2024 


One of the most influential bands of the late 1980s, My Bloody Valentine had their roots in Dublin. This is where Kevin Shields and Colm O’Ciosoig formed the band in 1984 before moving to Berlin and recording a mini-album for an obscure German label. After an exploratory period they were signed to Creation. Ironically, access to more sophisticated studio techniques resulted in a new sound that blended melody with layers of corrugated, distorted guitars, a combination of buzzsaw noise and deft songwriting that sent shockwaves through the Indi scene.

Loveless, their second album, was released in November 1991 after a journey that could only be described as torturous. Pitchfork lists the gestation period as three years, Allmusic Guide suggests a more modest two perambulations of the Earth about the Sun. Wikipedia averages those for a recording duration of just over two-and-a-half years. Multiple producers entered the control room but were then shown the door. Numerous studios were occupied and quickly vacated. The process resulted in Creation dropping the band as their accountants ran up cardiologist bills almost as steep as the studio invoices. Yet Loveless was hailed as a classic almost immediately, being credited with inspiring the shoegaze style and influencing bands such as Lush, Slowdive, and Chapterhouse.

This is an album about guitars in the recording studio. From the opening "Only Shallow", the epic sound rolls over the listener like the embrace of a tidal wave. "Loomer" is blearily beautiful, a tone reinforced by the brief interlude "Touched", best described as a dream-twisted orchestral score for a 1960s nature documentary. "To Here Knows When" is one of the more challenging tracks, a nightmare ambience of foggy instrumentation leading into (exhalation) one of the more accessible songs, "When You Sleep". This is pop from an alternative reality.

Loveless is definitely an album of two sides. It is almost like curved mirror versions of the same vision. "Come In Alone" kicks off side two commandingly, while "Sometimes" dials up the emotion; the sadness, the transcendence. It’s a key track on the LP.

"Blown A Wish" has a light-side / dark-side swoon, the harmonies and woozy loops evoking both a benign acid trip and a candle-lit dinner. The industrial strength guitar crash of "What You Want" is typical of the slam-edits of this meticulously crafted work. As those guitars open up to share the sound stage with vocals and a catchy melody you understand that this yin-yang roller coaster is exactly what Loveless—and Kevin Shields—are all about.

Shields spent several years preparing his all-analogue remastering of Loveless for the 2017 release. The 2022 re-issue retains all that work, housed in a deluxe gatefold sleeve with a set of six large-format postcards and a download voucher. Clearly the musician keeps striving for another level of excellence in his masterwork. Yet in some ways it is the blurry, hallucinatory cover image that offers the best representation of the music. A music that keeps changing as its creator endlessly tinkers. It’s an eternal process for Shields and perhaps for fans as well. But whether you pursue many versions or just enjoy the excellent 2022 re-release, one thing is certain: Loveless, for all its contradictions and abrasions, contains a lot of love.


© Bruce Jenkins—May 2024

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