Sound — 10
My Bloody Valentine were the premier band to emerge from the late '80s/early '90s "shoegazer" movement. Their second full-length album 'Loveless' has been hailed by critics as one of the most inventive and important albums of the '90s. 'Loveless' was recorded over two arduous years, an effort which nearly bankrupt the bands label Creation. Kevin Shields (the bands main songwriter) was termed a 'perfectionist' by the music-press, but looking back on the 1991 release, the results speak for themselves. It has also been stated that part of the reason for the disbandment of My Bloody Valentine is that they believed they could never produce something which matched up to 'Loveless'. My Bloody Valentine's music is definitive of the shoegazer movement; however, I will attempt to describe the sound for those who are unfamiliar with the term. As with a lot of early-'90s indie records, My Bloody Valentine's sound relied heavy upon heavy distortion, which seemed to be almost swirling. Synthesiers are also used to enhance the "wall of sound" like texture of the album. The Electro-Harmonix "Big Muff" pedal was an essential part of creating this heavy distortion sound as well. Another key element of 'Loveless' is Kevin Shields unusual guitar playing style. Using a Fender Jazzmaster, Shields was able to manipulate the use of the guitar's floating tremolo and strum whilst holding the tremolo. This gives the tracks an unusual and unique sounds, and one which proved particularly difficult to fully replicate live. However, even with this focus on distortion and unusual guitar technique, the songs are surprisingly catchy. This is most evident in the great opener "Only Shallow", the driving "When You Sleep" and the brilliant closer "Soon". Although guitar, bass and drums are key elements to the sound of My Bloody Valentine, other instruments are also used. The heavy use of synthesisers in the beautiful "To Here Knows When" combine sensually with Shields swirling guitar, to create a tale of drug-induced love. A drum machine also features in the sombre yet loving "Sometimes", one of the highlight tracks.
Lyrics — 9
One of the other noticeable things about 'Loveless' is the heavy layering of tracks upon one another (similar to Billy Corgan's style of production in the Smashing Pumpkins). This leaves the vocals in the back of the mix. However, this becomes a non-issue as this technique accompanies the music perfectly. The songs are sung by either Shields himself, or Belinda Butcher, the group's female guitarist/vocalist. In truth, neither Shields or Butcher are strong singers, but their soft and heartfelt vocal deliveries suit the lush arrangements and the trippy sonics of the album perfectly. Most songs tend to focus on tales of love, heartbreak, reflection and finding oneself.
Overall Impression — 10
Many artists, including (but not limited to) Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, Bloc Party, Mogwai, the Verve and Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins, have cited My Bloody Valentine as an important influence on their musical careers. The album does not drag in any part and takes the listener through a variety of moods. It also does not become stale after repeated listens. In fact, one begins to notice more about the arrangements as one listens to 'Loveless' more. At first, Shields swirling guitar parts can be a little disorienting (particularly, like me, you are standing up on a bus in heavy traffic whilst it is raining listening to 'Loveless on your Ipod), but this soon fades. Many bands (including My Bloody Valentine) have tried to recreate the sounds of 'Loveless' and no-one has yet successfully achieved this. For those who aren't too sure what they will be getting in to, I recommend downloading either Only Shallow, Soon or When You Sleep so you can get a taste of what is to come. 'Loveless' is a brilliant album that I encourage everyone to give a try.