My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (1991)

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I Only Said
My Bloody Valentine: Loveless (1991)

Some years ago at the invitation of JB Hi-Fi, Elsewhere was invited to create a list of 101 albums of the rock era for The Cornerstone Collection, a small format magazine given away through their stores.

It was an enjoyable exercise but challenging because these weren't just my favourite albums – otherwise the list would have included Bob Seger, Dwight Twilley, left-field Neil Young and more – but albums which were useful building blocks for a decent and diverse collection.

So yes Neil Diamond's Hot August Night and Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms were in there, but so were the Stooges, Ramones and Dr Dre.

For years afterwards – and even as recently as a month ago – I was getting the occasional e-mail from someone who enjoyed the selection, found it useful or wanted t know why some very good but rather obscure album of their own choosing wasn't in there. (Crass was never going to be in such a collection, believe me!)

There were obviously a number of great albums which didn't make it, and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless was one that was nudged at the last moment.

We acknowledge this remarkable album of tuneful guitar distortion, extreme sound dynamics and a wall of sound achieved through sampling and the mono recording, Loveless was the band's finest and final statement (until the re-formation mbv album in 2013).

It was such a protracted recording process that Creation Records dropped them immediately after it came out with label boss Alan McGee saying he found MBV's guitarist/singer/guiding light Kevin Shields impossible to work with (they changed studios, engineers and producers, and the band didn't want its name on the cover).

Brian Eno described Soon – from the earlier EP Glider, the sole single and in an alternate mix as the closing track on the album – “a wall of distortion with a few motifs arising like icebergs out of it here and there. It's very hard to hear the beat , it's very hard to hear the key, there are no lyrics so far as I know.

“It's really set a new standard for pop music.”

Except it wasn't popular.

Despite critical acclaim and widely considered among the best albums of the Nineties, this masterpiece of intense shoegaze – it defined and redefined the genre – hardly did the business, charting outside the top 20 in the UK and outside of a small coterie (mostly of musicians) made no impact in the US.

That seems odd given that was a high-water mark for shoegaze with bands like Ride, Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Swervedriver all being successful. Yet the songs – like Sometimes – were there to be discovered.

However the sheer intensity of Loveless perhaps made it a more difficult proposition for most . . . and the tide started to turn against the movement.

Attention turned to bands like Massive Attack and Primal Scream, who offered something more approachable than the nagging and noisy I Only Said on Loveless.

But in recent years there has been a renewed interest in the menacing sonics and melodic drone of shoegaze and Loveless – which never went away for many – might have found its time.

Let's hope so.

It should be in any Cornerstone Collection!

As this goes on-line, Elsewhere is working on an alternative 101 Building Blocks Collection which will fill in the gaps between the Cornerstone albums, but with sometimes very wonky walls.

These Essential Elsewhere pages deliberately point to albums which you might not have thought of, or have even heard . . .

But they might just open a door into a new kind of music, or an artist you didn't know of. Or someone you may have thought was just plain boring.

But here is the way into a new/interesting/different music . . .

Jump in.

The deep end won't be out of your depth . . . 

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