Posts Tagged ‘loveless’

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My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

February 14, 2010

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

It’s tough to talk about this one, not because it seems as if everything that can be said about it has been said, but because there are always new things to say about it. I’m honestly always throwing different adjectives at Loveless. None of them hit the mark. None of them even come close.

Yeah, it doesn’t help people who haven’t heard Loveless when I tell them “look, you just kind of have to listen to it.” And sometimes, “you just have to stick with it.” But there come points of understanding with Loveless where you don’t really have words and then you sort of fathom why it’s so difficult to put into concrete terms.

Sure, My Bloody Valentine “got it” with some of their mid-career EPs. You could hear they knew what they wanted to be, and with You Made Me Realize and Isn’t Anything they locked in and made their ideals secondary, crafting classics of the era. Still, they were getting closer to something. But listening to Loveless after Isn’t Anything or even Glider is still a bizarre departure. The leap in style and composition is jarring, and even though Loveless is a sensible next step, it still sounds like a whole slew of material was skipped on the way to it.

And really, it’s not a stretch at all to say nothing sounds like Loveless. God knows enough people have tried to emulate it; Loveless skyrocketed the sub-genre of shoegaze into the indie stratosphere and people tried to shadow its style for, now, decades. And yet I haven’t heard even one other band attempt to use My Bloody Valentine’s tremolo techniques, deliver half as eclectic of a set or even touch on its emotional impact.

And emotional impact might be its most recognizable quality. Loveless is an incredibly visceral record; even when it sounds wrong it feels right. Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher make their guitars pulse and tremble in a somewhat random fashion, blanketing innovative pop songs with an unpredictable sheet of warmth. The result is incredibly difficult to pin down and yet still completely beautiful and moving.

The irony of its title seems to be the album’s least discussed issue, and my guess is because it is either so obviously ass backwards that it requires no further acknowledgment or because there are subtle implications throughout that Loveless never quite reaches transcendence. Shields himself has claimed that he wishes he could have taken the ideas he presented on Loveless further, but doing so would have ensured that it would never be released, and I have heard this album described as “ugly” countless times. It’s not an easy album, and it is by no means perfect, but its rewards leave us speechless, and that is something that few, if any, other artists have ever truly achieved. There is no album more filled with love.

My Bloody Valentine

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My Bloody Valentine's Loveless 33 1/3

February 15, 2007

For those of you who don’t know, the 33 1/3 series is a successful line of short books devoted to the making of certain popular and acclaimed albums. Considering almost nothing significant has come out of the My Bloody Valentine front in the past ten years or so and close to no news on Kevin Shields has surfaced in months (save an interview in Magnet earlier in the year), this is news, and I picked it up without exactly knowing what the series had to offer. I will say that for fans, this is a must have. What the book does is outline what went on with the making of Loveless, a classic album that broke a ton of ground and ended up being a staple of popular music. If you haven’t heard it, you really need to. Like it or hate it, I really do believe it is essential listening. The book is nice, but to be honest it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I guess I was expecting a full length book when in fact the 33 1/3 series is comprised of fairly small coffee-table books a little over one hundred small pages in length. I was also expecting the book to be filled with stuff that mostly audiophiles would be interested in, like production techniques and effects and stuff. I was also surprised in that area, as the book ended up being less technical stuff and more technique, ideas, and principles involved with the record. That may have not been the goldmine that more avid and knowledgeable fans were expecting, but I’m honestly not an audiophile so I do feel like my time wasn’t wasted. Where would I be able to learn more about sound quality and technique and such? I have no idea.

It was Valentine’s Day a few days ago and I actually woke up to this present on my kitchen table. My mother got it for me as a present (AAAAWWWWWW), and it was Valentine’s Day after all, so I decided to read it when I got back from school and then give Loveless another listen for it’s special day. After reading the book, the sound seemed to make more sense, which may be good or very, very bad. Part of what makes Loveless so enjoyable is how big of a mystery it is, not so much in production but in it’s subtleties and wonderful details. Every time you listen to that record, be it in a new place or not, you learn something new about it, even moreso if you really crank the volume. But it is kind of better to not think about it so much, so it’s one thing to not be educated enough about it and something else to go “hey, that’s that certain effect.” Luckily, the book doesn’t suck the life out of the album. It does reveal some certain effects, a comfortable amount. It does clear up a lot of the myth around the album and seperates truth from fiction once and for all. The biggest fiction that has surrounded the album for fifteen years is that Loveless bankrupt Creation and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make. The truth is that Creation was already broke and strung out on drugs by the time Loveless got started. Loveless may have cost a lot of money, but really it wasn’t as much as people usually think, and a lot of the problems arose from Creation sending them to different studios at a really fast pace so that it just took a lot of time to get settled and get things done comfortably.

Another myth is that any given track on Loveless has tons of guitars, and this just isn’t true. Most songs on Loveless only have two guitars on them. What makes them sound so huge and wonderful is the technique employed by Shields and the awesome use of the tremelo arm, which by no means is easy to use. Only Shields and Butcher could really get the hang of it. And it’s true, Shields was a perfectionist in the sound quality department, but honestly, the album came out close to perfect and no doubt extremely close to what Shields wanted, so it’s all good. The book elaborates on the studio experience pretty vaguely, actually, because it is extremely hard to judge where the recordings took place because they were bouncing around too much. But all the difficulties are made clear, and all the people credited to production get a little bit of light shed on them, which is nice. And all of it is reliable too, as the writer actually got in contact with three out of four members of the band. There are a few strange little mistakes though. There seems to be some confusion on Dave Conway’s name, as well as sequence involved with certain tracks and the EPs. Tiny little things. Chapters are divided up nicely, with each chapter being devoted to certain topics like vocals, guitar effects, sleep deprivation, and the state of the band members. A lot of background information is provided too, so it’s not just all Loveless but also other information from the preceeding and following eras that bring lots of stuff out of obscurity. He could have easily screwed that up by not giving adequate background information, but the scene is set pretty well here.

What I did have a problem with was some of the personal opinions of the author. It’s not like it’s their job to agree with me, but on some levels I felt like my own opinions were being encroached upon. Especially with the short outline of the album he gives early on. It’s not like I disagree with most of the stuff he says, but he does kind of dismiss “I Only Said” as a weaker track, which is totally not true. And he kind of injects his own life and experiences into the book a bit much, interjecting now and then with his own anecdotes. But that is probably good, as he is a veteran of the time who saw the band live on numerous times, making his vivid description of some certain live aspects all the more real. Another problem I had was the post script. The last part makes a fair bit of sense, but for the most part it’s an advertisement for Rafael Toral’s album Wave Field. Which I guess is alright and I won’t complain because it is a post script, after all, and not really part of the book. It just seemed a bit unnecessary. But very few stones are left unturned in this book and I really appreciate that, as there is just so much myth surrounding the record.

Almost all of that myth is cleared up here, and for those of you who think you know enough anyway, a lot of the book is scattered excerpts of a recent interview with Shields, so that and the cheap price should be enough to secure the purchase. This is probably the most definitive and well compiled source of reliable information that you can get on Loveless, and fans will love it. It’s a quick but informative read that reveals a lot in the way of production, musical theory, and personal affairs of the band. And yes, it does shed quite a bit more light on the futures of the band members, in a fairly positive way too. Loveless is an album that really needs this kind of book, and it’s already helping me to appreciate the album more because I do feel a lot more knowledgeable about one of my favorite albums. Which by the way really does sound completely different at full blast, which I learned not too long ago. This book is nice and fun to read, but don’t let it make you sit by your hi-fi studiously analyzing anything. That’s totally missing the point. It just gives you quite a bit more to dabble in, presents a tidal wave of great facts, and significantly eases the pain of the abscence of any follow-ups.

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My Bloody Valentine – Glider[EP]/Tremolo[EP]

August 19, 2006

As far as influence goes in popular music, people usually think of The Beatles, The Who, and Led Zeppelin above all else. But when it comes to modern music, people usually think Sonic Youth, The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Smiths, and maybe even Nirvana. But My Bloody Valentine isn’t always credited with the praise it deserves. In the same way that Daydream Nation and Psychocandy changed the prospects of recording, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine did too, and it spawned a new era of beauty and noise. The problem with Loveless is obvious; the album ended the bands career because of how simply good it was, and the perfectionism of Kevin Shields refused to release an album that didn’t trump it. Naturally, this would be a tough feat. So when people pick up Isn’t Anything and Loveless and end up loving them, well, where would they go next anyway? It’s not easy to be fan of a band that had only two full albums. If I had to direct these confused people in one direction I guess it would be in the direction of Ecstacy and Wine, the lovely Psychocandy inspired compilation of two EPs that arguably has no bad songs at all. But most of where fans would want to be directed are the two EPs from the Loveless era. Because it’s disappointing to know that Loveless was never followed up, and if you want a taste of something simmilar to Loveless, getting these two EPs is about as good as getting half of a completely different CD, and while that CD would not be quite as good as Loveless, it would still be fantastic.

Much like Isn’t Anything, Loveless had two EPs that accompanied it. Glider came before Loveless, and Tremolo after. Both have things in common and things different with eachother and Loveless, but it is pretty obvious that both are essential for My Bloody Valentine fans. First off, both albums have a track from Loveless. I guess the only difference in that respect is that the track featured on Tremolo has a different ending, but that’s about it. Both EPs have three b-sides as well, and all of the songs are reminiscent of Loveless in some way. I guess the difference is, and respectfully so considering the sequence in which they were released, Glider sounds like it leans more towards Isn’t Anything with the production of Loveless, and Tremolo sounds more like Loveless with a little bit of a new direction.

Glider

I’m not sure how the band got the inspiration that led them towards the sound that Loveless has, but this sort of shows the transition. I’m not big on Isn’t Anything even though I understand it was very important, but regardless of the renegade misorganization of the album, it is a tad too muddy and unorganized for me. But what this EP has is the Loveless production and instrumentation with songs that are more reminiscent of the Isn’t Anything era. It’s good simply because it is what fans would want from a release preceeding Loveless by only a few months, and they wouldn’t have known quite what the new record would do.

The track taken from the album is Soon, which is arguably it’s best, a poppy little dance beats with bells and soaring guitars. But the rest of the songs on the album, the b-sides, are not close to as good. They are rather delicious if you are open minded and understand that My Bloody Valentine is not very conventional at all, but they are weird, no one is going to pretend otherwise. The title track is hardly even a song so much as a switch between two chords with interesting sound effects for a few minutes. It’s not very accessible, but it is pretty nonetheless if you understand MBV and already enjoyed Loveless. The next song, Don’t Ask Why, isn’t very layered, but it has a floating mass of sound effects that carry over a hushed tambourine and complement some nice poetry from Kevin Shields. And finally there is Off Your Face, which is probably the most accessible b-side here. It is a lovely little love tune that not only explores lust like many MBV songs do, but also flat out love. It’s a perfect example of the band finally learning what those quick drumrolls that they did years ago song after song really mean.

It’s a fun little EP, and it’s essential next to Tremolo if you are a big My Bloody Valentine fan. I’m not quite sure I’ve heard the whole story, but I think more tracks were actually recorded for Glider for it to be a full album but were later scrapped. An interview with Kevin Shields in 2003 stated that the members were thinking about entering the studio again to redo those tracks. But don’t quote me on it. But the truth hurts… It gets the crap kicked out of it by Tremolo.

Tremolo

If you are looking for some kind of direction to which the band would have gone after Loveless considering that the band hasn’t made another album yet since the 1991 epic. It is far more consistant than Glider and much much better, and it arguably features songs that are good enough to be on Loveless.

The song taken from Loveless is the atmospheric little love musing To Here Knows When. There is a slight difference between this and the album version, and that is that the ending is a tad different, but it’s not anything worth sweating. The core of the song is exactly the same until the last thirty seconds. It’s a great song. Next comes Swallow, which is easily the caliber of any of the songs on Loveless. It almost sounds a little eastern with it’s upbeat pace, bells, and vibrant flute-like instrument that takes the wheel. Of course the layered guitars are here that make the signature sound that the band revolutionized. Belinda Butcher is a fantastic vocalist and her talent really works here. Her words are always relaxing and reassuring, unlike Kevin Shield’s, although he isn’t a bad singer either. If I had to make a guess as to where the band would go after Loveless, Swallow is either as close to that sound as we will hear for a long time or just completely reminiscent of Loveless on it’s own. Honey Power is perhaps a little more layered and loud, but still sweet as candy. Belinda once again proves herself to be a really talented vocalist. And then there is Moon Song which MBV fans hail as both good and very strange. It is a hypnotic wall of sound if I have ever heard one. It has some bongos that complement the twinkling sound well. Think a night in a tropical ring of islands looking at the moon. That’s about what this captures.

So it’s way better than Glider in it’s own way, but I wouldn’t put down Glider either. It just stays more consistant.

In the end, if you liked Loveless, you would like these EPs. They are pretty much the only way that ones thirst can be quenched for more Loveless. Neither of them are extremely rare like the bands earlier EPs, so… If you are going to get brand new copies of each, I’d go to amazon.com and check out some of the suppliers there and you could get new copies of both for ten a shot and used maybe around five. It’s well worth it and they aren’t that rare. Good purchases and great music from a great and tragically underrated band. And if you have never heard Loveless, check out the review that I wrote for it a month or two ago. Just dig around in the archives a little and you will find it.

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My Bloody Valentine – Loveless

July 1, 2006

Very seldom do I listen to an album and get as blown away as I did with this one. I’ve only really been floored by an album on the first listen once, and even then, I had heard at least one of the songs on that album once. A lot of my favorite albums were not completely new on my first full listen to them. By that point, I had most likely already heard most of it on the radio or at home from my parents, etc. But Loveless by My Bloody Valentine is just a very special album as it is very much the pinnacle of it’s genre. Very few genres even have any albums like this. Heck, very few subjects have pinnacles like this. Basketball has Michael Jordon. The art of guitar playing has Jimi Hendrix. And I guess shoegaze rock has Loveless. Hearing all the other shoegaze that I have listened to has almost disappointed me, because this album is just miles above it’s opposition. That said, you would be hard pressed to find a more detailed, lush, and immerseful album than this gem.

One thing you will always hear about this album is that you kind of need to hear it on headphones to really understand it. I’m not sure if that is completely true. It’s just that headphones seem to be the best and most convienient way to listen to it. The fact that the album can be played at all on the stereo function makes listening to this correctly a very frustrating experience. You need to play it loud, that much I will say. But to do so on a conventional stereo is sort of difficult. Not playing this on a high quality sound system is a shame, and even the most subtle of differences can make the listening experience a problem. For example, my stereo is at a very strange profile to where I actually sit and listen to music. With that said, I can’t quite get the full experience out of this album unless I literally sit in front of my stereo and absorb each speaker with equal space. So headphones are the best way to listen to this, and if you aren’t worried about damaging your ears and are worried about annoying the neighbors, that is the way to go.

Anyway, the reason you need to have such a perfect environment to listen to this album is because it is so detailed. Even at the very beginnint of Only Shallow, the albums first song, you will find that the opening sounds are so clumped up and swirling that you can’t really tell what is going on instrumentally. There might even be a fricking elephant in there, no joke. But when it smooths out, the vocals are unintelligible and the instrumentation is now smooth and dreamy. In case you were wondering, this album is notorious for costing about a half million dollars to make, and almost bankrupt it’s label. Of course, I’m sure it more than paid for itself, but it paid off in different ways anyway. The fact that this album is as gorgeous as it is should be a payoff enough, and you can just feel how layered every song is.

The very concepts of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals are completely turned around when you listen to this album. Guitar especially, because the amount of distortion is very suprising. Of course, in a good way. The main man Kevin Shields in addition to Bilinda Butcher both do a great job of layering the guitars here, but once again, this is not an album to actually be nitpicking about details so much as taking them in. The only organized part of the guitars would be the actual chords, not their exact timing, as everything melds together anyway. If that makes any sense. The bass often just adds to the layering like it does in any band, and only in a few tracks such as Soon does it really play a pivitol role. But if you listen closely, it does really do it’s job well. The drums are usually reserved and almost a little mechanical, but still very important. Obviously. But upon the first listen, the timing involved in this album can be very off putting, especially for Blown A Wish, and while it is a great tune, it is very confusing.

Another undeniable quality of this album is that it oozes sexuality. I remember some review somewhere, I think it was the official one on amazon.com, describing the album like a magma flow of sexuality, or something along those lines. That is totally true. Even the albums only little blurb of filler, Touched, works as a perfect interlude into the next song while demonstrating the ecstacy and skewed feelings involved with sex. Bilinda Butcher has perfect vocals for this job. If you have ever heard the bands previous endeavor, Isn’t Anything, you will realize how Kevin Shields voice sounds a tad annoying on it’s own. The change is welcome, and the feminine aspect of the vocals on this album is very pleasing. But the juxtaposition of Kevin’s and Belinda’s voices on certain tracks is also very well done.

The sheer ground that this album covers is amazing. Not all of the tracks are completely memorable, but all are atmospheric and have their own individual power nonetheless. Even the weakest track in my opinion, Loomer, is a very good song, and makes do with hushed intensity. To Here Knows When and Blown A Wish are both very much alike because Belinda’s vocals play such an important role. The hushed confidence of To Here Knows When is a very cool effect, as well as the noisier and more detailed and flowing Blown A Wish. And the wall of sound Come In Alone is not to be overlooked either. This is the song on the album that truly needs to be cranked to get it’s full potential. It is a warm comforting wall of sound that you need to let engulf your ears for a little while. This is great daydreaming music, and actually great dreaming music, very easy to drift off to because it is just so natural.

This album isn’t radio-friendly at all, because it does not focus on accessible hooks or anything. But the more accessible songs are actually the ones that are the best. Sometimes is a break from the fun and relaxation to say a few serious (yet not really understandable) lines about love and relationships. The flow of the song and the precision and skill involved in the music and progressions is very admirable. When You Sleep very well be the most popular song off the album, and that is for a very good reason. The…out in front thing (keyboards, flute, something.) is just brilliant and relieving. It’s cousin I Only Said sort of does the same thing by having a keyboard/flute/thing out in front that sets the example and progressions for the rest of the song to follow, and it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and become annoying either. This is by far the most detailed track on the album, as far as the whispering, guitars, sound effects, etc go. The ending result is quite ambrosial, and not easily contested. This is the track that shows that more is better, or at least it is better when this band piles on the layers.

The last two tracks are probably the strongest. What You Want is the perfect drive of guitars and an optimistic outlook on life. This is the kind of track that makes you want to get off of your butt and do something, although it is also very conclusive. Conclusive tracks often annoy me, because I would like to think that something good won’t end anytime soon. I get annoyed because it is only a week before something good will happen sometimes. Like, I’m just that worried about not being able to appreciate something for what it is. The last song on the album, Soon, remedies this situation perfectly. It is probably the best song on the album, and what you would most likely expect to hear first. It has a driving dance beat and layers upon layers of good stuff, just like usual. The sleigh bells are the perfect touch and make the song very enjoyable. They actually remind me of Christmas, or at least winter, my favorite part of the year. But it doesn’t feel cold enough to really make that connection.

Anyway, this is the album that keeps on giving. The tangibility and detailing of the music is something that even I haven’t come to fully grasp, because whenever I hear the album, there is always some new part where I say to myself, “Oh, that’s cool. I didn’t notice that before.” The only sad thing about this album is that it was never followed up, which is very disappointing, considering it seems like Kevin Shields had very much to say. It seems a little late to hope, but either way, this album seems like it will never get old, and it is a lot of fun to listen to for how sophisticated it is.