09 August 2009

I Bought This on Amazon for Less Than a Pack of Cigarettes

In yet another installment of the series which combines thrifty shopping tactics and a desire to understand rock and roll comes an earnest analysis of an album considered to be one of the most seminal recordings in the history of what is known as indie rock. The album is entitled Loveless, and it was recorded by the group My Bloody Valentine. It was released on November 4, 1991, and it was through somewhat tumultuous circumstances that the album ever saw the light of day. It took two years and nineteen different recoding studios, but eventually the London by way of Dublin group found what they were looking for. Namely, frontman Kevin Shields who apparently dominated sessions in order to create the right aesthetic. According to the internet, this album cost nearly 250,000 pounds to make and somehow resembled a failure. Not a lot of commercial success surrounded Loveless upon release, but it has gone on to be praised by people who are paid to review music. In 1999, P4K named Loveless the top album of the 1990s. In their 2003 edition of the same list, the album dropped to #2 as Radiohead's OK Computer was anointed as the new #1. Spin had it at #22 in their "Greatest Albums of 1985-2005", and even Rolling Stone managed to recognize it as the 219th best album in their 500 Greatest Albums list. If this is all to be believed then this album may be kind of a big deal.
At this moment, there are really only two things that I understand about this album, and one of those is the fact that this album is really really really good. The second thing is that it seems like the internet is out to make Kevin Shields look like a dick. Write-ups for this album center around the fact that it took longer than expected to make, and how for some reason this would be Shields' fault. Yeah, he went through lots of engineers and producers while making this record, but what does that really mean beside the fact that he went through a few engineers and producers. It certainly doesn't make the album any less good, and to be fair Lil' Wayne did basically the same thing while he was working on Tha Carter III. I realize that was a strange comparison, but Shields' could have gone through a hundred producers as long as the end product turned out the same. Obviously, Shields had a particular vision in mind. He had a sound in his head, and it was merely a matter of getting that sound on wax so that he could share it with the rest of us. There's this book entitled The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen, and if you ask any of the dozen of people who have read it they would probably say it is completely batshit. I will admit that it is slightly weird, but there is some merit to it below the surface. Throughout the book, the narrator directly addresses the reader and each time he doe so he is always talking about how he is really doing something with this journal and how there is a very deliberate process involved in sharing his thoughts even when all hope seems to be lost. It's intimidating on the surface, but once you plunge through it becomes kind of beautiful and the same could be said about this album. This is a daunting disc at first, and once it starts playing the listener feels swarmed in sound to the point of suffocation but once the listener lets go then it becomes this impressively massive wall of sound like a monster wave and at this point the best course of action is just surrender and follow it to its natural end. 
The phrase "wall of sound" pops up in lots of reviews for this album, and it is a term that is somewhat inescapable when thinking about the album. And while, I'm sure there are countless number of bands that were influenced by My Bloody Valentine the one that keeps appearing in my subconscious is Deerhunter. They construct a similar structure, and like MBV it is very easy to become swallowed up. The tricky part about Loveless is the fact that volumes of words could be dedicated to this album, and it still wouldn't be done proper justice. If I was more talented and clever then perhaps I could provide some cutting-edge analysis, but alas I am not and as a result we are stuck with this middle of the road interpretation. I apologize for the failure, but what really can be said about something so stellar? Wouldn't any attempted explanation just bog the album down? When consulting the internet for possible gateways into what makes this album so great, all a reporter can find is quotes from Robert Smith, Trent Reznor, Brian Eno, Billy Corgan, Robert Pollard, and Trey Anastasio all gushing about how amazing this album is. Well that, and how it is considered to have directly influenced Radiohead and how it is seen as such an original and extraordinary record that it calls to mind the hey-day of the Velvet Underground. And now after listening to it, this ignorantly humble writer thinks that the album is pretty...pretty good.

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