Ben Winch's Album Review
What is there to say about Loveless that hasn’t already been said? It never seemed, in the early nineties, that it would ever be so talked about. But the truth is I tuned out on the MBV talk long ago, even though in 1998 when a Bowie freak and an Elvis freak asked me which artist’s albums I’d take to a desert island I said My Bloody Valentine’s (all two of them). Well, I was still mourning a lost love—the pivotal point of my young life—which had been born amid a Loveless and LSD haze. My girlfriend and I would sing along (or hum, since we couldn’t hear the words) while we made love, woman and man accorded equal spotlight on MBV’s stage. Back then I had no idea what MBV looked like: I saw them (men and women both) waif-thin in sheer satin, silk or leather. And I would have been happy to persist in that illusion: the pink guitar was all the imagery I needed. Of course soon enough I discovered Isn’t Anything (with its band photo), and the early EPs. All are great—in some ways better (or more wildly inventive) than Loveless, but not as easy to get lost in. Given Kevin Shields himself seems to think Loveless was a misfire, I can see the flaws: its kind of flat, one-dimensional, lacking light and shade; it’s what it suggests that’s most powerful. Still, what a suggestion! To a degree, despite the copycats, I doubt there’s been a more futuristic record in rock, at least in this vein. And on reflection I don’t think it’s all about guitar technique. (After all, Brian Eno did the synoptic whammy-bar trick on Here Come the Warm Jets in 1973.) What was MBV’s secret weapon? Ingenuous as it may sound, the songs—the off-kilter melodies, beguiling chord-changes, sweet-and-sour disposition. (“You Never Should”, from Isn’t Anything, always struck me as their breakthrough, and I’d love to have heard it Loveless-ised.) Oh yeah, and of course the delicate balance of the sexes: the future of rock, after all, is part-female. There are caveats: Shields turned demagogue, and squeezed Loveless of band dynamics. (On the other hand, Colm Ó Cíosóig’s jerky garage-band drumming could never have cut through on this level.) From what I gather (I’ve barely listened to it), the 20-years-in-the-making M B V continues the trend. Me, I’ve got no time for an MBV that doesn’t reinvent the sound, and relegates the melodies to a supporting role. Truth is I rarely even spin Loveless these days—it’s too wound up in those days. But I know it to be solid gold. Along with Slint’s Spiderland, probably the last time guitar music truly blew me away. The sound of sensual overload. And one of four or five records that changed my life.