My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’

Posted: September 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

By Ethan.

Last week, I listened to My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’  for the first time.

I’ve lately been reconsidering the importance of thought-provocation in music, that music doesn’t need to make you think to be good. If you’re searching for something to indulge in that makes you think, read some philosophy or an opinionated newspaper article. However, Loveless does make me think. It isn’t political, rebellious, nor is it made to serve the purpose of causing the listener to have of one specific train of thought. As David Byrne said:

“With music, you often don’t have to translate it. It just affects you, and you don’t know why.”

Perhaps it’s the underlying, droning buzz of each track amongst the layers upon layers of guitars that triggered such an emotional response. Perhaps it’s lead singer Bilinda Butcher’s mellow and seemingly underwhelming vocals, or even the layers of guitar, as well as their FX pedals turned all the way up, that do what this album does: it makes me feel anxious.

The following is a list of thoughts I had within the first couple of minutes of the album:

  • “Huh? My socks are odd?! Oh, wait, no they’re not. Ha. Phew.”
  • Did I put too much wax in my hair today…?”
  • “Oh, damn! I forgot to text —–! Hopefully he won’t think I hate him.”

 

I tend to think of myself as an anxious person regardless, it probably shows in my disjointed style of writing and the list that I’ve provided you with above, but Loveless makes me feel anxious in a peculiar way. At first, its melancholy and mellow sound causes the listener to feel, at a point, removed from today’s world. I didn’t get that sense because I listened to it on my own in my bedroom, but because of its distinctive sound that made me feel so comfortably numb. I was no longer thinking about what I was doing for the rest of the day, or what I was doing tomorrow. It didn’t make me think about how I’d like my football team to line up in our next game, or my social arrangements, or the Labour party’s leadership elections either; it disconnected me from the thoughts of today’s world.

This made me feel anxious because it reminded me of everything else: those cringe-worthy awkward things I said at about eleven or twelve years old, a Bar Mitzvah present I’d half-forgotten existed, and that time that I lost a game and was a sore loser about it. The cliché that is so often told regarding adolescence is that it is a period where, as time passes by, those embarrassing comments one made a year or two beforehand begin to become increasingly infrequent. What was punishing in listening to this was the unfriendly, and hopefully false, reminder that even at fifteen years old I still manage to blurt out cringe-worthy comments.

As my sense of musical taste has progressed so rapidly over the last months and years, I’ve been valuing originality increasingly – which is why Loveless couldn’t have strolled into my life at a more perfect time. My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and The Mary Chain were the pinnacle of the Shoegaze era, and it’s Shoegaze’s vocals that evoke anxiety. Specifically, the seemingly underwhelming vocals: an underwhelming ‘hello’ is an anxious hello. The vocals that are at times unintelligible: they evoke anxiety because they are unintelligible, which results in uncertainty; the partner in crime of anxiety. The breathy, intimate vocals: what could make an adolescent more anxious than an intimate, breathy voice that that speaks words that are difficult to decipher?

Reminiscing over the past inevitably led me to thinking about the future: what if I continue to say awkward things in social situations? What if my chemistry grades don’t pick up? What if…? This passage of thoughts underpins exactly what this album did: it gave me a friendly reminder that I am an anxious person.

This album is not as depressing as I’ve depicted it, though; certain aspects of it are wonderfully uplifting. The sensation of removing myself from today’s thoughts is profound: the headache of arrangements and, at times utterly pointless, recycled thoughts like ‘who will win the Labour leadership election?’ were relieved after far too long.

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