NEWCOMERS at the time, My Bloody Valentine burst into the grunge scene with uncontrollable force in the early 90s with their sophomore album Loveless. It promised us just that; a loveless concussion of what noise rock should be. A career-changing effort from the Dublin quartet which served as the band’s breakthrough into the limelight of generation-defining music, pioneering the sub-genre commonly known as shoegaze (taken after the performers’ stage stance of standing still and looking at their pedals next to their shoes).
What with the unprecedented success of punk and grunge bursting into full flow in the 90s, with bands like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, many felt the genre as a breath of fresh air, a new era of rock ‘n’ roll. However, others saw it as an overused expression of teenage anger, lyrically judgemental to those who weren’t provocative enough, and a genre slowly losing its idealistic values and its core musical structure. Most bands tried to emulate the powerful immaturity which made Pixies so influential, but none have captured the spirit of noise/post-punk rock music like My Bloody Valentine.
While most grunge bands during the time would focus on the message of their lyrics, MBV focused primarily on their sound. A dreary, grey conception of what sounds like a guitar screaming in pain drilling through your ears, incomprehensible murmuring, and a melody which can just about be heard, are just some of the detailed consistencies which can be heard throughout the entire 10 track album. Lead vocalist Kevin Shields took over most of the production of the album, steering it away from the bands less successful first album sound, and moulded a lot of the instrumentals together to create a mono sound, which he believed created a better sound with “the guitar smack bang in the middle and no chorus, no modulation effect”. In addition to lyrics, the band spent a lot of time working on vocals, describing it as a pinnacle ‘to the sound’, and adding, ‘there’s nothing worse than bad lyrics’. This is strange considering how little the listener can actually understand what is being sung. That being said, the whole album took two years to create, due to the unproductivity of the recording sessions, the on-going change of different producers, drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig increasing personal problems, the ever-changing recording studios, it was a mess, just like the inaudible lyrics. It seemed like all the bands ideas were falling apart and they had no idea where to go with it, or what their motivations were for the album. Even worse was the sheer amount of pain and bankruptcy their record label, Creation, went through to bring this album into light. Surely, an album so disruptive and painful would destroy the band.
However, it became clear, after the album was released in 1991, that My Bloody Valentine had done something right. The album was very low budget, but was universally loved by critics. The vigorous, violent sound they created was only as loud as their ear-shattering shows, which became a staple in their rise to fame. Each song is difficult to explain, and even more difficult to differentiate. Apart from a change in riffs and melody, every song ties together nicely to create an experience. A range of rare negative opinions ranged, for example, NME editor Danny Kelly describing the sound as “more like torture than entertainment”, to critic Mark Kemp calling the tour “total confusion”. It’s no surprise, the album hurts; really, it’s what makes the album so perfect.
Then again, that didn’t stop pretty much all the music media since glorifying the album, with Pitchfork as the front runner naming Loveless the best album of the 1990s. It’s not your typical head banging, singalong type of music you’d want to find the guitar riff for on Ultimate-guitar.com. The album is powerful and moody. You can hear the band’s passion and desire in every single savage strum and beat, forming the discovery of noise itself. This would later influence a whole new generation of alternative rock bands who would take My Bloody Valentine as the image of a unique band, with the ability to create an individual experience for the listener; in other words, the next Pink Floyd.
After all their problems during production, My Bloody Valentine’s rich and unique sound was able to cleanly illustrate all the turmoil and demons each of the band members faced. An accumulation of dark undertones, compressed instrumentals, and a hell of a lot of stress is clearly reflected in this album, which makes it a perfect choice to listen to when you are alone, and have nothing to do. Just like the title, this album was Loveless; nothing good went into it, but a lot of love came from it.