35 Albums in 35 Years: 1991

In an ongoing attempt to bleed my opinions all over your computer screen, I’m selecting one album from every year that I’ve been alive that has some sort of significance to me…and then writing about it. Welcome back to 35 Albums in 35 Years.


loveless1991: My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless

My Bloody Valentine is the loudest band of all time. There is no argument against this. I have seen any number of loud, screeching rock bands over my 35 years, heavy metal bands, obnoxious punk bands, drone and feedback bands, noise, noise, noise. I’ve stood directly next to the PA, the speakers, the half stacks and amplifiers, ears unguarded, my brain rattling around inside of my head from the sound waves careening into my body. Make it loud. Make it scream. Make it shake. I’ve seen it and heard it, but nothing has ever come close to the full on sonic assault of a My Bloody Valentine live show. Earplugs are handed out at the door, and with good reason. The layers and layers of guitar textures and feedback and hum create a swirling, deafening cacophony of noise that shakes building walls, shortens your breath, and makes you delirious. The closest approximation I can think of on a decibel level would be to stand on the inside of jet engine during takeoff.

And it’s all too beautiful.

These days, I listen to so many different kinds of music it’s hard to say what my thing is. I am a purveyor of all genres, all styles, and I cling to them all. But over the course of my life, from the prepubescent years through adolescence and adulthood, I have gone through different periods of utter and total devotion to particular kinds of music. A hip-hop phase. A psych rock phase. A punk phase. A metal phase. They come and go at random intervals, generally piqued by whatever artist or band I’ve just been exposed to. Sometime in high school I got really into Brit-pop, spurred on by my interest in Blur after hearing The Great Escape. Brit-pop soon lead to shoegaze and bands like Slowdive, Swervedriver, and Catherine Wheel. My introduction to My Bloody Valentine was inevitable and certain from that point. Loveless was the granddaddy of that whole scene, and it demanded my attention.

Strangely enough, I was almost underwhelmed with my first listen. The band, and that album in particular, had been granted such a godlike status by critics and friends alike, that I half expected trumpets to blow and rivers to part once it hit my ears. But to me, it just sounded like another pretty shoegaze record. So, I had to listen to it again. And then again. And then I started to notice all the different layers of guitar, all the subtle bits of programming, electronics, and samples, all the intricate and delicate pieces of sound put together in perfect order and sequence by the mad genius Kevin Shields. It was a revelation. This is what bliss sounded like. I had never heard such an intoxicating noise before.

From the opening beats and swirling wail of “Only Shallow,” with its soothing and enchanting female vocals (courtesy of Bilinda Butcher) through each progressive track, the weird sonic heavenly procession of “To Here Knows When,” the lovely pop hooks of “When You Sleep,” and onto the closing shake and sway of “Soon,” the album sounds like its creators were channeling something deep within the cosmos, a deity no normal human being could ever hope to understand. My mind was blown and my ears were in awe, and this was before I even listened to the record on headphones.

And then there’s “Sometimes,” Kevin Shields’ hushed vocals singing a melancholy love mantra, gently strumming on a heavily distorted guitar, and the echoed synth/sampler effects flowing in the background, it’s haunting and transcendent. There’s something so pure and beautiful about that song, it almost makes me sick. That’s why I love it.

Loveless and My Bloody Valentine would go on to lead me to so many different wonderful discoveries and sounds. They influenced so many bands (and continue to do so), that it’s almost ridiculous. Just being a fan of My Bloody Valentine is an indicator of being awesome. I am indebted to them. We all are indebted to them. The follow up album that we finally received 22 years later was well worth the wait. Maybe we’ll get another one when I’m in my 50’s. Regardless, we’ll always have Loveless.

- Favorite song: “Sometimes”
– Runner up: “Soon”

Some other albums I almost wrote about instead: Nirvana’s Nevermind; Slint’s Spiderland; Guns N Roses’ Use Your Illusion I and II; Primal Scream’s Screamadelica.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>