[retrospective] My Bloody Valentine // Loveless

Once again choosing to embrace the path of midsummer nostalgia, I would like to look back to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, since we are hot on the heels of the re-release of the MBV back catalogue. The catch with this assessment is that I will try to keep myself from being concrete, ignoring the actual songs and avoiding the storied history of the recording.

Loveless may very well be my favorite record. None other entries pop into my head to contend for the spot, and while such a thing may seem ridiculous to say, I see no reason to disagree with myself. It is my White Album. If formats for delivering music were to change ten times in the next ten years, I would own 9 out-dated copies of the release with the good one sitting on my desk.

The strength of the record isn’t so much in the songs (which are great) but from the fact that the songs are ideas about songs. They are impressions of form and structure that are tied down loosely by rhythms that are themselves submerged in the beautiful mirk of the album. Songs flow into each other, and the transitions inside the songs are riddled with the relentless tinkering of Kevin Shields’ sonic mixology.

Guitars (surely no other record captures the glory of a guitar like Loveless!) fight for dominance with the vocals of Shields and Bilinda Butcher. The Shields-Butcher tandem can merge into one voice or split into a spectacular counterpoint. Each voice is individually (and distinctly) masculine or feminine and androgynous when combined. The collective and the individual find homes on Loveless. And that’s just how the vocals sound, saying nothing about how the lyrics (which I have never tried to decipher) come together into profound statements that I always immediately forget, like waking from a dream. This feeling never leaves me when I listen to the record. And I cling to that impression like a believer to the words of a mystic.

This album taught me more about listening to music than anything I can think of. What makes Loveless so great is that you have these killer songs that could easily have been played with a straight, rock angle, but those songs are presented more as sonic landscapes with jagged rock’n’roll cliffs. Like the lyrics, the music feels like a complete thought when you hear it, but that sense of completion dissipates the deeper you get into the songs. The more I hear, the more I forget thanks to the staggering immersiveness of the music.

It’s gorgeous, haunting and inescapable. Totally unique and painfully final. If MBV could have made a leap like going from Isn’t Anything to Loveless, where could they have gone next? But that’s the point when you leave on a high note; otherwise, you look like the Stone Roses.

My Bloody Valentine // To Here Knows When
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