For the most part of 1991, I was 15. That’s when Loveless came out and I, like many curtain-haired teen, had a copy. I thought I loved it, Melody Maker told me so, but truthfully I loved their debut album much more. I got both records at the same time – pretending I liked Shoegaze before 1991, would be like pretending I liked The Smiths when I was nine (nobody liked The Smiths when they were nine.) My Loveless was the a-side to Isn’t Anything (they shared a TDK D-C90,) but it was the b-side that had my heart – probably because the songs were more like … songs. And it growled. Grungy in appearance, I hated rock. I was too shy to be a Goth, though I loved the music. To my mind, the attention they courted was crippling. There was no such declaration with My Bloody Valentine. Unwittingly, there were my saviours. Their place was an internal one. They carved an inclusive scene, one you didn’t need tell people about, never mind boast about – the music was plenty loud.
Where I lived, there was a town in the name, but the nearest one was ten long miles away – and even that stretched the definition. Getting out was more a survival instinct than an ambition – of course the soundtrack to such a transition will glow forever. It was 1993 when I left for college and got my own place. It was then that I was clouded enough to hear Loveless clearly. For all the myth/reality/actual barbwire surrounding this album, none of it was as affecting as listening to it … really listening to it. With My Bloody Valentine in general but specifically Loveless, there’s no entry point. It’s a tumbling, rolling, cumulus, impetus, subjective, vague, precise, personal, and momentous ride. That it didn’t sound like anything else, that it raised the bar, that the recording sessions were legendary, that Kevin Shields was/is a mad cap genius, that it birthed a scene (may be several), that it broke (made) a label, that it is one of the most influential albums of all time, that it induced tinnitus, that they kept us waiting for 20 odd years – that stuff, that’s a journalist’s dream. Go read about it. It filled pages for over two decades. Pages about how they changed the way music was crafted, produced, recorded, performed – detailed everywhere from pedal specs to band management fables.
For me, they changed how I listen to music. Not concerned with clever verse/chorus bridges of lyrical poetry, My Bloody Valentine are about the micros of music, not context or commentary. Their hooks are suspended moments and their moments linger timelessly. So let the journalists dissect m b v. Let them laud. Let them be disappointed. Let’s not be precious. This is not about nostalgia. The sentiment of debating over the violin/not violin motif in ‘Soon’ or the wretchy waft of hops coming from the Harps factory as the Belfast train passes through Dundalk following a heavy night in Queens SU bar, that’s nostalgia. Romanticising the past, the notion that your time was unique, that your time was the most important … that your time is past … that’s nostalgia.
My Bloody Valentine are all about being in the moment. And m b v is a collection of endless moments – gauzy, heady, harmonious moments, with ambiguous song-titles that would befuddle even the most wide-eyed dream popper. ‘who sees who’ is a haze of formless melodies, buried under diaphanous reverb. ‘is this and yes’ is a contemplative trickle of angel song. ‘new you’ is a lesson in noise and repetition. ‘is this and yes’ is Belinda at her most bewildering. ‘if i am’ inverts the probable nature of instrumentation. ‘new you’ is a skilled tremolo duel. ‘in another way’ is a blistering assault. ‘wonder 2’ is a guitar battle under a flight path. m b v is music to my ears.