As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of My Bloody Valentine’s seminal record, let’s look at some tunes that probably would not have existed without its influence.
My Bloody Valentine‘s second album, “Loveless,” was released on November 4th, 1991. Although various sources give different numbers, it reportedly took an exorbitant amount of money to record,the highest estimate being 250,00 GBP, which nearly bankrupted Creation Records, who subsequently dropped the band after its release. After running through 19 studios, countless engineers, and a few nervous breakdowns, the album was finally delivered to unanimous critical praise. It hit 24 on the UK charts but was pretty much designated to the Buzz Bin and 120 Minutes in the US.
Since its release, many musicians have taken great notice of its charm. The album’s heavily layered haze has been adopted by several bands since, and it has been used as a template for production by various engineers and producers. In honor of “Loveless”‘s 20th year of existence, we’ve compiled a short list of songs that have been made since, that employ Kevin Shields’ unique style of tremolo guitars, dense overdubbing, buried vocals, and processed beats.
M83 – “Don’t Save Us From the Flames”
Probably the best example of an artist in debt to My Bloody Valentine is M83. Anthony Gonzalez’s epic scope and knack for employing hushed vocals under big guitars has become his own trademark. “Don’t Save Us From the Flames” opens much like “Loveless” opener “Only Shallow” — a clean drum roll followed by an explosion of sound with modulating lead guitars providing its hook. Gonzalez himself is also a pretty meticulous perfectionist like Kevin Shields, but he has luckily been able to deliver great records on a regular basis since M83′s debut in 2001.
The Dandy Warhols – “Nietzsche”
From a record dedicated to covering as many styles as possible, “Nietzsche” is the Dandies most obvious tribute to My Bloody Valentine. A slow chug burns its way through five minutes of song with the vocals kept fairly low to the ground. A wall of guitars hit all at once as the song begins that eventually peel away as it winds down, revealing how heavily coated it is. The Dandy Warhols are not primarily known for their interest in shoegaze, but it’s influence is dispersed throughout their career on songs like “Ride,” “Be-In,” and this standout from “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia.”
Slowdive – “Machine Gun”
It might be a bit presumptuous to say that the lush dreampop of Slowdive’s second album “Souvlaki” couldn’t hav existed without “Loveless,” being that the slowcore band is one of their contemporaries, but there definitely is a significant improvement on their sophomore effort, released in 1993. “Machine Gun” in particular seems to take a big cue from Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher’s soft vocal tradeoffs, with Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead sounding as if lost in their owns worlds, connected only by a shared loneliness brought out in the song’s mournful tone. While the pair’s work in Mojave 3 would prove to be more earthy, MBV’s influence still played a key role in their careers.
Death in Vegas – “Girls”
Remembered most for it’s use in the opening to “Lost In Translation,” “Girls” is a great example of “Loveless”‘s dreamy influence. Waves of vocals and arpeggios float of the song’s escalating progression that gradually increases in volume and tempo. Now if only Death in Vegas could have actually made a record with Oasis, something that Noel Gallagher had said was potentially in the canon around the time they made “Heathen Chemistry.”
Fennesz – “A Year in a Minute”
Fennesz has made a career out of taking digital ambiance and turning it into lush beauty. His landmark album, “Endless Summer,” is based completely in blips and drones that would otherwise sound like straight up noise, that offer a whole new world of sound. His intense layering recalls Shields’ own work with dissonance, that he somehow translated into a pop masterpiece.
Smashing Pumpkins – “Rocket”
The Smashing Pumpkins were a band that are pretty hard to define in any one word. Their crowning achievement, “Siamese Dream,” employed stadium sized rockers, sweeping ballads, and immensely stacked levels of guitars, a style of production that is very much owed to the groundwork Kevin Shields laid down on “Loveless.” The Pumpkins would eventually employ that record’s head engineer, Alan Moulder, on “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” which he produced alongside Flood and Billy Corgan.
The Raveonettes – “Remember”
The Raveonettes songbook is a frequently repeated concoction, but one that goes down real sweet every time. Fusing 60′s pop and garage with shoegaze fuzz, the Raveonettes are one of the most prominent bands that one could could tag as ‘nu gaze.’ Their debt to MBV isn’t worn on their sleeve as visibly as some of the other artists featured here, but the dreamy haze of guitar noise that fills their records is more than enough to give them some credit.
Deerhunter – “Helicopter”
Deerhunter are a band that have obviously listened to a fair share of shoegaze, but on songs like “Helicopter,” they manage to take aspects of an album such as “Loveless” and make it into something eerily familiar but at the same time totally new. The song trudges by on beats that sound like rocks being thrown in a riverbank while shaky guitars and keyboard tones wobble underneath Bradford Cox’s laid back croon.
Radiohead – “Planet Telex”
The tremendous progress between “Pablo Honey” and the opening track on “The Bends” is startling. From the first downbeat of “Planet Telex,” the listener is transported into a weird world of unprecedented sound in a move very similar to the opening salvo from “Only Shallow.” The song is by no means a shoegazer but the style is one of the many incorporated into Radiohead’s roster that make up their ever evolving songcraft.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Gentle Sons”
“Gentle Sons” is the Pains of Being Heart’s closing number on their debut, an album that runs the gambit of all the shoegaze varieties. Songs like “Come Saturday” and “This Love is Fucking Right!” lean more towards the punkier, uptempo side of the genre, but “Gentle Sons” is a full fledged, slow burn epic.
This is just a sampling of the album’s wide range of influence, but nothing can say more about the album’s excellence than “Loveless” itself. Give it a spin today for old time’s sake.