My Bloody Valentine

Only Shallow

Composed by Bilinda Butcher / Kevin Shields

Song Review by

With its opening track, Loveless decisively sweeps the shoegazer table clean, presenting My Bloody Valentine's infinitely textured, obsessively overdubbed sound in a forceful manner that basically screams "Listen to this or we'll bludgeon you senseless." The album's cover art -- a blurred, magenta-filtered shot of a guitar in play, photocopied, double-exposed, and blurred almost into unrecognizability -- is a perfect metaphor for the sound of "Only Shallow." Bursting forth with a brief, Ramones-like 1-2-3-4 tattoo from drummer Colm O'Ciosoig, the song immediately swerves into a disorienting haze of massively overdubbed and processed electric guitars playing an eerie see-saw riff over Debbie Googe's pummeling, nearly heavy metal bass line. Just as unexpectedly, the song cuts to a comparatively placid B section focused on Bilinda Butcher's sleepy vocals cooing the utterly indecipherable lyrics (legend has it that guitarist/mastermind Kevin Shields waited to record the vocals until Butcher had fallen fast asleep in the control room before hustling her into the vocal booth before she had a chance to wake up enough to give anything more emotive than the flat, deadpan reading she delivers here) before swinging, pendulum-like, back into the guitar overdrive. The song continues that whiplash back-and-forth for nearly four minutes before finally settling into a dark, echoey hum of feedback and drones that slowly fades into the opening of the following track. It's a breathtaking start to a near-perfect album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Loveless 1991 Rhino / Warner Bros. 4:18
No Image 1995
Original Soundtrack
Matador 3:41
Whatever: The '90s Pop and Culture Box 2005
Various Artists
Rhino 4:18
The Brit Box: U.K. Indie, Shoegaze, and Brit-Pop Gems of the Last Millennium 2007
Various Artists
Rhino 4:18
blue highlight denotes editor's pick