Taking a Hot Shower on a Cold Winter’s Night
I once saw someone describe listening to this phenomenal record as the same as ‘taking a hot shower in the middle of a cold winters night.’ In essence, I felt that this short and profound statement truly summed up the content of this album in a way that I didn’t even think was possible. Everything about Loveless revolves around stark contrasts, whether it be the swirling dream pop, jarred against the layered feedback and glorious guitar noise or perhaps the immense feelings of ecstasy that clash with the harsh moods of dysphoria and hopeless despair that are impeccably reflected within the cryptic lyrics. There’s the warmth from Kevin Shields’ unrelenting guitar performances that sweep across the body, opposing the prominent, bleak soundscapes of isolation that are expertly spaced across the songs. And you can’t forget to mention the iconic album art of a hazy guitar that oozes welcomeness amongst vibrant pink hues, yet simultaneously seems unreachable, as if lost in a forgotten dream or memory. This album cover truly enhances the quality of the album in some strange away, acting almost as a visual companion to guide you when listening to this colossal LP.
If any music ever effectively mirrored what it’s like to be lost deep in an immensely pleasant dream with a sense of aching longingness, this album would be it. At its beating heart, the 11 tracks are simple love songs that describe the journey through a beautiful relationship, detailing everything from deep tenderness and affection to the cruel throbbing pain of drifting apart from a loved one. This seminal offering from My Bloody Valentine resonates fundamental innovation and ambition in its entire breadth. The abstract and vastly unorthodox recording process that almost bankrupted Creation Records reflects this single-minded aspiration. Shields’ overblown perfectionism seeped into a severely uneven recording procedure that often-involved periods of unproductive and fluid experimentation to ensure that everything was done to the best possible extent without the weight of looming deadlines. Take the simple tambourine backing of to Here Knows When for example, a loop that is virtually unnoticeable in the vast sounds of the song, yet it took almost a week to master. The estimated 250,000-pound cost that was dedicated to the creation of this masterwork stands as an unwavering testament to the bands uncompromising vision and resolute effort.
The music itself compromises of some of the most hauntingly beautiful compositions ever put to tape. The highlights are too far and many to completely list but songs such as Loomer, Sometimes and To Here Knows When consistently retain their value upon repeated listens (not to say the other songs don’t). “Tiptoe down to the lonely places,” Bilinda Butcher almost whispers at the start of Loomer, “Little girls in their party dresses,” before the voice fades into a flood of gorgeous noise at the 37 second mark. If anyone looped this short, exquisite flurry of sound I don’t doubt that I could listen to it for hours without tiring. It’s one of the first times I realised that music was more than just an entertainment medium and it could properly transcend the sum of its parts, developing into bold artistic statements.
Later, on to Here Knows When, Butcher takes charge once again, delivering a restrained singing performance that is drowned out by the layered guitar, pushing the listener deep into the soundscape. “Because that way you touch her too,” she gently hums amongst an array of delightful ‘ooos’ and ‘aahs’ that gradually dwindle into the background towards the end of the song, expressing a subtle degree of sensuality. Shields’ takes the vocal reigns on Sometimes, a more sombre song that contemplates the feeling of being ‘loveless’ amid tensions of breakup and disagreement. “Close my eyes, feel me how, I don’t know, maybe you could not hurt me now, Here alone, when I feel down too,” he laments over a simple guitar rift, encapsulating the feelings of loss and devastation that plague the album. Nevertheless, the distorted outro of the song bleeds a slim underlying slice of hope, voicing a change in perspective and reinforcing the underlying dualities of the album.
At the end of the day, I have a lot to thank this album for, as it helped expand my horizons and open the wide doors into the unfathomable world of music. Loveless’ reach and influence is remarkable and it undeniably marks the high peak of wonderful 90’s music, a true genre-defining achievement. Kudos to My Bloody Valentine for their conception of this masterpiece and the 48 minutes of eloquent sound that it encompasses.
When I look at You I Don’t Know What’s Real