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Music / Loveless

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Pictured: what the album (and by extension, the genre) sounds like.

"It's rare in guitar-based music that somebody does something new. At the time, everybody was like, 'How the fuck are they doing this?'"

Loveless is the second studio album by Irish shoegazing band My Bloody Valentine, released in 1991 through Creation Records (in conjunction with Sire Records & Warner (Bros.) Records in the US). It is considered both the greatest work and unfortunate killer of the shoegazing genre as a whole.

Essentially crafted single-handedly by Kevin Shields, the album took two years to record and used 16 engineers throughout, even if all they did was provide tea. Recording for the album supposedly costed £250,000 and nearly bankrupted the band's British record label, Creation Records. (However, Shields has disputed this, saying that most of the money spent on the album was "money to live on" and that Creation probably only spent about £15,000-20,000 on the record; he also reckons that the recording process only took about four months over a span of two years.)

Further issues were compounded when drummer Colm Ó Ciosóg fell physically ill and was unable to drum properly for all but two of the tracks; "Only Shallow" and "Touched", the latter of which was Ó Ciosóg's composition. Shields worked around this by using samples. The vocals were also recorded in a fairly complex manner, and frustration with them resulted in Shields layering different takes onto each other and eventually just subduing them all together. To this day, the official lyrics still haven't been released; vocals were considered instrumentation, and Shields has a notable aversion to bad lyrics. Then the computer that held the masters threw everything out of order, and had to be remixed from memory.

Loveless, while only a modest commercial success, was so critically adored that every other shoegaze work (most notably Slowdive's Souvlaki) was compared to it, ensuring the genre's death. With shoegazing's Genre Relaunch in the late '00s-'10s, comparisons are still thrown around, no matter how heavy (A Place To Bury Strangers) or light (DIIV) your sound is. Needless to say, Loveless has since gone down as one of the most influential albums of all time. Funnily enough, Shields expected the album to be savaged by all reviewers; instead, the exact opposite happened.

Not to be confused with the manga of the same name. Or the Show Within a Show in the universe of Final Fantasy VII, which is named for the album. Or the novel. Or the emo band.


  1. "Only Shallow" (4:18)
  2. "Loomer" (2:38)
  3. "Touched" (0:57)
  4. "To Here Knows When" (5:31)
  5. "When You Sleep" (4:12)
  6. "I Only Said" (5:34)
  7. "Come In Alone" (3:59)
  8. "Sometimes" (5:19)
  9. "Blown a Wish" (3:37)
  10. "What You Want" (5:33)
  11. "Soon" (7:01)

Principal members

  • Kevin Shields - Guitar, vocals, sampler (and everything else, though uncredited)
  • Bilinda Butcher - Guitar, vocals (Only handled vocals; Shields handled guitar)
  • Colm Ó Ciosóig - Drums, sampler
  • Debbie Googe - Bass (Didn't actually play)

Feel like tropes grew stronger:

  • Epic Rocking: "Soon".
  • Fading into the Next Song: Almost the whole album. There are only a few gaps between songs; outside of the vinyl edition, the one between "Sometimes" and "Blown a Wish" is probably the most distinct.
  • I Am the Band: Kevin Shields, with some contribution from Colm and Bilinda. Debbie didn't even play at all.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Kevin and Bilinda don't enunciate that much to begin with, and the vocals are generally fairly low in the mix because they feel the vocals should be just another instrument. Added to the fact that the band never releases official lyrics, this means that interpretations of the lyrics often vary widely.
  • Instrumental: "Touched"
  • Intercourse with You: "To Here Knows When" is hardly subtle with (barely intelligible) lyrics such as "Move on top, because that way you touch her, too." The song itself sounds like druggy sex.
  • Lesser Star: For the duration of the album's recording, Colm and Debbie. Kevin even said that "I'm basically the only musician on the album except for 'Touched' [Colm's song]".
  • Longest Song Goes Last: "Soon" clocks in at 7 minutes and 1 second.
  • Loudness War: Gloriously averted. Loveless is mastered at 1991 loudness (or slightly below it) but has an excellent mastering and thus doesn't clip or cause any trouble. The mastering is so good that it can sound radically different depending on which stereo (speakers, headphones etc.) you play it on. A 2-CD reissue (two different remasters) of Loveless was released on 7 May 2012, and lo, although the two remasters are both louder than the original, it's not at the cost of dynamics. The first disc is a new master sourced from the digital tape that served as the source of the original CD issue and the second is sourced from the original 1/2 inch analogue tapes. Time and a good pair of headphones will be needed to discern the differences between the two (other than the fact that the digital remaster is slightly louder), but Kevin Shields did an excellent job of describing the separate processes in an interview with Pitchfork. (He also denounces the loudness war in the same interview, meaning that none of this should be terribly surprising.)
  • Lyrical Dissonance: So many examples, but just for one, "Once in love/I'll be the death of you" sneaks into the otherwise ethereal "Blown a Wish". To be fair, this is an album of unintelligibles we're talking about, so you really need to know what you're listening for or you need to have listened to it many times to catch it. Bilinda says that the extreme unfun of recording Loveless and her personal issues influenced the lyrics for the album, and that she has trouble listening to it due to how it reflects their mental state at the time.
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: Kevin's guitar, slathered with effects (much like the music), with the band name tucked away at the bottom.
  • One-Word Title: The album and its songs "Loomer", "Touched", "Sometimes" and "Soon".
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Debbie. As far as the general recollection goes she didn't play on Loveless despite being credited (Kevin also took over Bilinda's guitar parts, but she didn't mind because she didn't think she was very good and wanted recording to go faster). Also, not the lead vocalist. Colm too, who's also saddled with an unpronounceable name and didn't contribute that much to Loveless either because of personal and physical issues.
  • Miniscule Rocking: The instrumental "Touched" barely lasts under a minute.
  • Performance Video: "Only Shallow", parts of "Soon".
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Not helped by their refusal to print lyrics, as they consider vocals to be an instrument.
  • Sampling: Used on Loveless for beats due to Colm's personal and physical issues (along with his homelessness) interfering with recording. Shields himself admitted that only two of the songs have live drums ("Only Shallow" and "Touched") while for the rest they sampled whatever Colm played and looped it. He mentioned that he believes the listener probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference, except for the more obviously dancier work like "Soon". He added that sampling was also heavily employed to manipulate guitar feedback and vocals into sounding like different instruments.
  • Serial Escalation: The recording process. Ungodly amounts of money, 19 studios, 16 engineers, bizarre behaviour, by the end they needed a week to master it instead of the customary day, and the cherry on the cake - during mastering, the computer they used threw the entire album out of order and Kevin had to put the tracks back together from memory.
  • Serious Business: NME's famously hyperbolic review:
    "However decadent one might find the idea of elevating other human beings to deities, My Bloody Valentine, failings and all, deserve more than your respect."
  • Shoegazing: Considered the greatest album in the genre.
  • Silly Love Songs: Just delivered at an ear-shattering volume with heavy doses of droney psychedelia.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Averted vocally, as Butcher and Shields have similar voices. Instrumentally, however, the interplay between the breathy vocals and fuzzed-out guitars arguably creates this effect, particularly on a song like "Sometimes".