Living with…My Bloody Valentine…for a week

Loveless – My Bloody Valentine (1991)

I’d never heard My Bloody Valentine before this week, and in my ignorance I’d not heard of shoegazing either, and yet I’ve been doing it for years.


I need to step back and explain.

My Bloody Valentine’s album Loveless is one of the critic’s darlings of the 1990s.  It is also the flagship of a genre of music known as ‘shoegazing’.  So called because the bands would stand on stage rather static staring at their shoes while they were performing.  I thought they were just being dull, or they were too drunk to move, but apparently they were ‘shoegazing’.

And where do I fit in here?  Well, one of my great music loves of the 80’s was the Cocteau Twins and one month I’ll just live with one of their albums every week and bore everyone to tears about how great they are.  Apparently, they were early runners of the ‘shoegazing’ genre.  I just didn’t know that, and nor did they I think.

I’d describe the Cocteau Twins’ music as sounding indistinct, as if you were just waking up.  You know when you’re waking from a deep sleep and someone is talking to you, or even singing to you.  For a few fleeting moments you hear the sound, and it’s calling to you but it’s indistinct. It’s beauty lies in that you can’t understand – that’s the Cocteau Twins.  The moment you understand it becomes something normal, no longer other worldy. The rhythms that lie behind their music were also indistinct layers – it was very dream-like.

So where does Loveless fit in?  Take the Cocteau Twins and add a lot more coarse guitar feedback and tremelo as the backdrop and you have the very distinctive sound.  I don’t think I’ve heard anything like this before.  And like many great albums, first, second and third listen aren’t easy and then it starts to gel.  The layers unfurl and you can hear art within the music.

It all sounds a bit pretentious if I’m honest but by the end of the week I found this a remarkable album.  It does feel like Kevin Shields and his band broke new ground.  There are so many layers to the sound, and yet no one can ever be pinned down.  Like a throbbing bass layer heard from under water.  Lyrics where just snatches are clear.

To pick out favourites almost seems churlish – the opening track Only Shallow storms in, I love the wailing and soaring guitar of To Here Knows.  The closing track Soon is probably the closest you’ll come to a dance track on the album!  They never released a single but one track has had wider coverage – Sometimes featured in the hugely successful film Lost in Translation in a beautiful scene travelling through Tokyo.  Very trippy, to be honest.

I’ve gone for Soon as the video clip:

All in all a hearty recommendation to explore if you’re open for a challenge.

Do let it spin a few times before passing judgement.  Don’t put it on at family parties as an alternative to George Michael’s greatest hits unless you’re looking to clear the room.

Do turn the volume up when you’re out in the car.  Don’t expect the rest of your family to share your passion for this album.

Mine didn’t.


Also see Living with…Sonic Youth…for a week

Twotes of the week

@Queen_UK: Mr Osborne, how difficult can it be? If there are six green bottles sitting on the wall and one green bottle should accidentally fall…?

@the99percent: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” -William Shedd

@ImMrBrightside7: ► ▼ ◄▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ▲ ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄ ▲ ► ▼ ◄▼dammit. i dropped my bag of doritos

@sixthformpoet: I like to think that my lack of common sense enhances all my other senses.

@umairh: It might be the case that we worry about the health of markets a little too much, and the health of society a little too little.

@johnsw: The Procrastinator’s Clock