Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is ‘‘Loveless’ by Irish legends My Bloody Valentine.
My Bloody Valentine had already forged a template for the shoegazing scene on their critically acclaimed 1988 début full-length ‘Isn’t Anything’, but ‘Loveless’ proved to be their magnum opus; exhuming smouldering, dreamy textures. Frontman Kevin Shields’ liberal layering of thick, warped guitar sounds have ensured that the album still sounds ahead of its time and for all his innovation and painstaking perfectionism (the financial strain that the recording of the album caused the band’s label Creation is now legendary) – he maintains a pop-sensibility and a strong ear for simple melody, as ‘Loveless’ proves on album highlights When You Sleep and Sometimes.
Equally as important to the LP’s ethereal sound were the sensual, whispered vocals of Bilinda Butcher whose soothing voice floats over the top of opening track Only Shallow like dead leaves caught in a blustery wind. The track itself is a de facto template for the rest of the album; a short, snappy drum fill from Colm Ó Ciósóig paves the way for a dizzying fog of visceral overdubbed and overbearing guitars and pulsating bass (though Shields reportedly recorded the album’s bass tracks himself, Debbie Googe’s stage presence and bass playing style is another of the band’s most prominent elements). My Bloody Valentine’s keen sense of dynamism is displayed to the full on this track, the pulverising opening giving way to a bright, rich verse section, and though Butcher’s lyrics are almost unintelligible throughout, the treatment of the voice as another instrument as opposed to a medium for any message to be passed through is demonstrated first and foremost.
Though a modest commercial success and initial critical reception, the album has in retrospect been hailed as one of the greatest of its day, and even of all time. However, the modesty of its success and the financial problems created by its inception lead Creation head Alan McGee to ultimately drop the band who, despite signing with major label Island Records only a year later, were overwhelmed by the idea of recording a worthy follow-up and eventually disbanded in 1997.
Since then, Kevin Shields has earned praise as an occasional guitarist for Primal Scream, his soundtrack work on Sofia Coppola’s sleeper hit movie Lost In Translation and the band have reformed, twice headlining Electric Picnic and earlier this year finally releasing a follow-up to ‘Loveless’, the impressive ‘MBV’. But, ‘Loveless’ was the album that truly broke the mould, deviating from the verse-chorus-verse conventions of songwriting, making it a truly original and important album.