1991’s “Loveless” is largely considered to My Bloody Valentine’s masterpiece. The band’s second album was recorded over a two to three year period, going through numerous studios and even more sound engineers, and causing a rift between the band and Creation label owner Alan McGee (who claimed the album nearly bankrupted him) in the process. Kevin Shields was either insane or a genius, depending on who you ask. He was obviously on to something in his mad scientist laboratory, concocting new and inventive ways of recording and making noise with his guitars. Despite not selling as well as expected, the album was lauded by critics, baffled the band’s peers at the time, and inspired generations of musicians.
You would think given the album’s legendary and god-like status in the shoegaze pantheon that yours truly would have loved it from the start. But not so. I tried and failed many times throughout the nineties to find value in the noise because I knew (I KNEW) it was in there somewhere. I think it finally took seeing a VHS on the shelf at my friend Alex’s apartment, live performances by the band (that also included Jesus and Mary Chain and maybe Blur?), and asking to put it on while we sat around drinking. My friend shrugged, it was his roommate’s tape and a little out of his jazz oeuvre. I remember that we were all pretty jarred by it, as out of our heads as we were by that point in the evening, and also quite jazzed (pun intended her).
“Only shallow” is the opening track and is a nuke to the head. The crunchiest guitars ever charge in and out during its duration, threatening to blow out any speakers not set at a minimum. The drum beat is merely a metronome that keeps vocalist Blinda Butcher on track. Her voice is breathy and sounding like it’s been run through a million effects pedals and distortion, and her words unintelligible, not that they really matter here. The guitars and the utterly destructive noise they create is the raison d’être.
And yes, it’s a great tune. It took almost a decade to realize it and to dig through the viscous noise haze, but that made finding the beauty and order in the chaos that much more satisfying.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.