Monday, March 17, 2008

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Interesting note: I saw a Dropkick Murphys 7" single printed on green vinyl, and I was thinking of buying it for the novelty - and irony - value and for a St. Patrick's Day post on this blog. I think thankfully, I didn't, and here's something much much better. And, mostly, more Irish!

I actually quite like Blackout, and the Dropkicks' version of 'Fields of Athenry' - not that I'm all that much a fan of the original- but seriously, green vinyl? Way to be Oirish, I guess...


A few weeks ago our paper of record, The Irish Times, published in its entertainment section a list of the Top 40 Irish Albums of All Time. This was #1.

The full list should be available here, but I'll give you the top ten anyway. It's all explained in the article, but the list was made from the collected votes of just four of the Irish Times's music critics, and hence some albums are tied:

1. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

2. U2 - Achtung Baby

3(a). A House - I Am The Greatest

3(b). The Radiators - Ghostown

5. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

6. Microdisney - The Clock Comes Down The Stairs

7. Rollerskate Skinny - The Horsedrawn Wishes

8. The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy & The Lash

9. The Undertones - The Undertones

10. Whipping Boy - Heartworm

Watch out for #3(b) on this site sometime soon, an absolutely excellent album and a definite pleasure to see something so relatively obscure so high up on the list; go here (on Clocked-In Punched-Out) to read a bit about #7 and see a video - kind of a shoegaze-y band as well. And we're all punks here - right? - so I shouldn't need to say anything about #9. 'Teenage Kicks' right through the night - the best I've every had?


My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is a landmark album, a veritable totem of noisy, beautiful post-punk and of that esoteric genre, 'shoegaze'. Most of what I have to say now has been said already in this earlier post, but it would be remiss of me not to attempt another description.

The first time I heard Loveless, not much more than a couple of years ago, still counts as one of my true musical revelations. The name My Bloody Valentine was somewhat familiar to me, as the title of some sort-of-cult early 90's Irish alternative band, associated with post-punk and heavy but standoffish rock. That kind of description (hazy in my memory now, as previous, incorrect assumptions tend to be) had to be thrown out upon the first listen.

Far from being really difficult, Loveless was from the start an entirely absorbing album. The wash of guitar noise was a fascinating and textured canvas for music that captivated and enchanted: melodies and rhythms that swirled about my head, ethereal vocals that plugged into my subconscious, and 'songs' that still made me tap my foot. Few things ever sounded so good.

It surprised me at first that some people preferred its predecessor, Isn't Anything (#24, incidentally), which has a more traditional song structure and at least at times a more straightforward sound. The previous post mentioned above was for My Bloody Valentine's Ep You Made Me Realise, and I guess I've come to see the attractions of most of their work, but Loveless is still the go-to album for My Bloody Valentine, and the touchstone work - albeit one that requires some reach - for shoegaze in general.

As for its Irishness, that might be for people other than me to decide. Certainly its core members are Irish - although Kevin Shields I think spent as much time growing up in New York as he did in Ireland - and their actual base in England only reflects the time-honoured tradition of Irish artists leaving their native land for better things, and having their works reclaimed for patriotic values. With regards to the list - and if one wanted to get political - Stiff Little Fingers (Inflammable Material, #19) are as British as, if not more than, My Bloody Valentine. Musically, I imbue the album mentally with an Irish air; the album closer, 'Soon', sounds reminiscent of traditional Irish music (céilís and whatnot) although in fact, it is inspired by the dance house music of the start of the 1990s. Bottom line is, it's Irish if you want it to be.

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)

For anyone who wants to do some reading over the spring/Easter break, here's a Florida music student's very interesting dissertation on the album and the culture surrounding it:

Kevin Shields is probably a maniac, but it's well worth watching these interview pieces between him and the no-less-of-an-idiosyncratic Ian Svenonius: VBS TV, Soft Focus UK (thanks to mr x. indeed for bringing these to my attention).

YouTube videos from Loveless:

'Only Shallow'

'To Here Knows When'

'Soon' (full version)

Lá Féile Pádraig!


Jenny said...

AH damn it, I knew I forgot to listen to the Pogues today! I didn't know my bloody valentine was Irish either!

Jared Dillon said...

really don't like this album. love their You Made Me Realise EP, though.

gabbagabbahey said...

- jenny; the Pogues are pretty much more obviously Irish than MBV; stay tuned for the Radiators Ghostown, their guitarist Phil Chevron went on to play with the Pogues in the 80s.

- jared; how is that even possible?! But yeah, You Made Me Realise has a harder, more rockin' sound. It's not that different though! Isn't Anything makes a good common ground.

blend77 said...

Hey! Happy Day After St Pattys day to my Irish friend!

now, what you need to do is find the remake of this album by the band Japancakes. They remade the whole album based mostly around slide guitars. It is freaking amazing. It may actually be better than the original.

For me, what My Bloody Valentine stands for is better than what they sound like. The sounds Shields made on this record have been re-used a million times to great effect, often better than this album.

i cant wait to check out that Ian Svenonius interview of Kevin Shields..

gabbagabbahey said...

tsk, tsk blend, you haven't been reading my blog (or if you have, you've forgotten):

Track 10 - Japancakes, 'Sometimes'

Amazing album, and one I picked up just at the end of the year. It may actually be better than the original, definitely.

Thanks for the 'Patty's' day wishes. Saw the pictures of the NY parade in the paper this morning, never understand the bagpipers (not something you actually see in Ireland). Now if they had a float full of shoegazers...

Ghostown coming up probably later today - more Irish, more punk!

Andy said...

Gotta say...this list is a little too cool for it's own good. I'm as snarky as the next guy, but to see the first appearance of Thin Lizzy at THIRTEEN!?!?! And the Live album, at that?? Yes, it's classic in the way that Cheap Trick's "Budokan" is classic. But not the definitive Thin Lizzy statement, and overall, the band should have a place in the Top 3, if you ask me. I mean...A HOUSE?? A fine band, sure, but TOP THREE??

gabbagabbahey said...

yeah, I've never heard A House. I think, reading through the whole thing, it's pretty biased towards left-of-field 80s and 90s stuff.

The obvious explanation (and I think this works as an explanation) is that this is when -and where - these guys were enjoying music: not in the world of 70s rock, but the more relevant to today scene of post-punk and pop. Sorry if that doesn't fit in with your tastes, but tough! (basically)

Other notable exceptions are the Horslips (the first really Irish rock band), Chieftains... you can read all the problems people have it with it here (and the writer's response):

Personally, I really like this list, three of my favourite albums are in the top ten - and U2 get knocked off their pedestal a bit too!

I'd be interested to know what you think of Ghostown

gabbagabbahey said...

sorry, meant works as a justification ^

Robert said...


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Thanks for your support and do not hesitate to contact the publishing label for a legal promo copy.