Saturday, December 13, 2008
10 Classic Irish Albums
MY BLOODY VALENTINE - Loveless (1991)
Not just the greatest Irish album of all time: the greatest album of all time, period. In fact, not just the greatest album of all time: the greatest work of art created in the history of mankind. If you ever need a testament to the benefits of relentless perfectionism, look no further: as this masterpiece was created between 1989 and 1991, mainman and visionary Kevin Shields went through eighteen recording engineers and nineteen recording studios, allegedly almost bankrupting his label Creation Records in the process (according to who you believe; Shields strenuously denies this). At the end of it all, Creation label-head Alan McGee vowed never to work with Shields again. Yet the end result was a record of almost alien beauty.
MBV can be seen as part of a lineage of great bands – the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, The Jesus and Mary Chain - who revolutionised and redefined guitar music: Shields’ primary innovation was the use of a technique nicknamed ‘glide guitar’, a method of wavering the tremolo bar of the guitar while strumming. This led to a disorientating, hazy effect as the music slipped in and out of tune. The textured, layered sound of the album led many people to believe that the band were using multiple overdubs, when in Shields’ own words “it's actually got less guitar tracks than most people's demo tapes have.”
Loveless seems to simultaneously pulverise the listener with waves of distortion and envelop them in an abstract, dream-like haze. The sense of contrast is heightened by feminine, unintelligible vocals that glide in and out of focus along with the music. It’s rare to find an album that manages to sound so harsh and discordant and yet so soothing at the same time: while on the one hand the record was the cornerstone of some of the loudest live shows in music history, on the other hand tracks like ‘To Here Knows When’ and ‘Blown a Wish’ convey a sense of pure tranquillity and bliss.
Even with the greatest albums, there are often tracks you’re tempted to skip, weak links in otherwise flawless works; but there’s not a single track on Loveless that falls below perfection. The final third of the album in particular - running from the haunting drone of ‘Sometimes’ through the celestial one-two of ‘Blown a Wish’ and ‘What You Want’, and ending with the hypnotic rhythms of ‘Soon’ - is simply the most incredible passage of music ever recorded.
There’s never been a follow-up, but that’s no great mystery: how do you follow perfection?
Standout Tracks: Blown a Wish, What You Want, To Here Knows When