How’s this for a list of facts for an album: Released in 1991 after being in work for three years, My Bloody Valentine‘s masterpiece cost Creation Records £270,000. From this not insubstantial amount, £15,000 is said to have been splashed out on a single guitar loop. Not surprisingly, this tardiness added to the sort of cash independent labels just didn’t spend very nearly put Creation out of the game. When the band toured Loveless, some audience members were physically sick due to the barrage of warped and twisted walls of distortion. It was also rumoured that one of the sound engineers had to quit; the noise levels were getting dangerously out of hand. So was it worth all the time and expense? You’d better believe it.
While Loveless was an obvious influence on the likes of Ride, Slowdive and Spiritualized, less obviously it is also the inspiration behind some of Blur‘s finest moments (Listen to ‘Sing’ from Leisure if you don’t believe me).
Onto the record itself then. In my opinion, on no record before or since has the sleeve cover so perfectly aped the music within. A blurred, woozy image of an electric guitar being given “the treatment”, lit up in bright day-glow pink.
When I listen to Loveless, I’m still never quite prepared for what follows those four dry, reverb-drenched drumbeats on first track ‘Only Shallow‘. The only way I can describe the sound is thus: otherworldly. Guitars squall, falling in and out of tune; the sound inside Kevin Shields’ head finally realised.
Throughout the record Billinda Butcher’s vocals are whispered, and the lyrics nigh on indecipherable. If you assume through this, that the band had nothing of importance to say then I reckon you’ve got it wrong. Britain in 1991 was an awful place, and MBV defined the times better than most. The disorientating music coupled with the opaque lyrics effortlessly sum up the directionless rut the country found itself in.
As for the rest of the record, well. If you were looking for a song to soundtrack the end of the world, you couldn’t go far wrong with ‘Loomer‘, and just when you’re becoming slightly claustrophobic from all the walls of sound closing in, up pops ‘When You Sleep’, with a hum-able tune (shock, horror!).
When I was talking of the influence this record has had I forgot to mention a certain Mancunian group who would sign to the very same label as MBV. The intro of the track ‘Sometimes’, with its marriage of acoustic guitars and mass distortion, would be half-inched by Oasis for their first number one, ‘Some Might Say‘.
Loveless comes to a fitting end with the epic ‘Soon‘. It takes the Happy Mondays‘ ecstasy induced bounce (on first listen I thought it was going to be some sort of shit indie dance track), plants a monumental slab of white noise over the top, yet still manages to be the most accessible song off the album.
For all the money spent, and time taken, Loveless’ production still sounds a bit slight; but that’s okay, you just turn it up louder and let yourself be enveloped by the neo-psychedelic cacophony. The only trouble comes when you put another record on and forget to turn the volume down; it nearly blows your head off. I can’t help thinking though, that this was precisely what MBV intended to happen.