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Album Review: 30 Years of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine

A look at one of the genre defining shoegaze albums Loveless by My Bloody Valentine and the effect its had on rock and the world of music since its release 30 years ago.

There are a few reasons as to why the evolution of rock music has yielded some of the most influential, creative, and unique albums and artists of any genre. Whether it be for the simple fact that rock music sees no instrumental bounds, can be enjoyable in any context, and can be independent from or wholly dependent on technology and electronic production, it is undeniable that rock music is a constantly changing spectrum of sounds and emotions filtered through the lenses of different musical geniuses throughout the last 100 years. Of all the genres and subgenres contained within the realm of rock music, few have as distinct of a sound as shoegaze. Dubbed “shoegaze” due to guitarists and singers being known for standing in one spot, sometimes staring at the ground or “shoe-gazing” for the majority of a show, the layered, fuzzy, reverb packed guitar tracks, pounding drums, and touches of ambient synth make this a timeless form of rock music since its original conception in the late 80s and early 90s. With major pioneers of shoegaze-like instrumentation dating back to the 60s with creative minds like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and the Beatles, followed by the sounds and styles of The Cure, Sonic Youth, and Dinosaur Jr., and eventually brought into true form with groups like the Cocteau Twins and the Jesus and Mary Chain, it is debatable if any band captured the true essence of shoegaze-rock better than My Bloody Valentine.

Formed by guitarist Kevin Shields and drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig in the early 80s as a guitar heavy rock group, My Bloody Valentine saw the addition of Bilinda Butcher (vocals, guitar) and Debbie Googe (bass) as a true reinvention of their sound. The Irish group began by releasing a few successful EPs, followed by their debut album, Isn’t Anything, in 1988. After this rise in notoriety, the band followed up by releasing the 1991 album Loveless on November 4th of that year, and over time this LP has become one of the quintessential and best genre-exemplifying album in the history of shoegaze. The distorted vocals, heavy guitars, and harmonious synthetic interjections make this record a listening experience, top to bottom. It is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential rock albums to date, and for all the right reasons. To create a sound that is unsettlingly beautiful track after track is something few artists, if any, can say they have accomplished. Whether it be the ever iconic “When You Sleep,” the distinct screeching chorus of “I Only Said,” or the unmistakable groove of “Soon,” it’s truly remarkable to hear a conglomeration of songs that are so simple in nature yet infinitely complex in sound. The band, and this album in particular, has seen a rise in popularity over the last 5 or so years with the increased domination of music streaming services that put the entire landscape of modern music right at our fingertips. With a new generation of music lovers, including myself, finding this album and falling in love with MBV and their discography, the band has recently added many other previous projects to streaming services for listeners who crave that feeling of hearing Loveless again for the first time. The band has even announced a brand-new album coming before the end of this year, as well as more projects in the future.

It’s rare that a band or artist will make a record that is so ahead of its time that it takes 30 years to have the full effect on its genre that Loveless did, but occasionally the best things take time. It will be damn-near impossible for MBV to do something as impressive and important as what they did with that album, but that won’t contain mine and many other fans’ excitement to hear what the band has in store for the future. All that is left to do is be thankful for these musicians pioneering shoegaze in a way no one has or ever will, and we can do so by listening to it on repeat for another 30 years.

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