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My Bloody Valentine, 'Loveless': Descendants

by Stephanie Benson

My Bloody Valentine, 'Loveless': Descendants


My Bloody Valentine's music -- most notably their 1991 landmark LP Loveless -- has become, for some, a musical creed against which no other can prevail. As Napster's Marc Kate wrote, the band's "countless fans feel about Kevin Shields' guitar chords the way Christians feel about the gospel. Each of the eternally dense chords seems to contain a glimmer of truth." So it's really no surprise they took 22 years to deliver the follow-up, 2013's m b v. But during those largely silent two decades, the band was a huge influence on alternative music anyway. Alongside their 1988 debut, Isn't Anything, Loveless has cast a sonic spell on everyone from noisy shoegazers to Alternative Nation icons to current indie stars.

Loveless traces the vital line that took '80s indie rock into '90s alternative. M.B.V.'s own influences traverse both British and American ground, from the alternative guitar-pop heroics of bands like The Velvet Underground, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Sonic Youth to the lush dream pop of Cocteau Twins. With Loveless, they took a jet-fueled blender to those influences, spinning what could be a straight melody into a swirling hurricane, Shields' meticulous yet blistering guitar effects swaddling his and Bilinda Butcher's angelic croons like an overpowering beast tending to a newborn. It's an enchanting effect that's simultaneously soft and searing, capable of transporting you back to 1991 whether you were even alive then or not.

It's also an effect many have since attempted to replicate in various forms, from the wall-of-sound shoegaze of followers like Lush and Swervedriver to the grungy, anthemic alt rock of Smashing Pumpkins and the torturous industrial of Nine Inch Nails (both of whom subsequently requested the talents of Loveless mixer Alan Moulder) to Shields' later dalliance with Primal Scream. Even Radiohead attempted that feverous guitar squall in their earlier work. There's also M.B.V. DNA in the smoldering post-rock of Mogwai and Japancakes (who actually released a whole string-laden cover of Loveless in 2007); the swirling psychedelia of The Black Angels and Serena Maneesh; the ambient fuzz of Fennesz; and the noisier forays of Deerhunter and A Place to Bury Strangers. Newer bands like Pink Playground and Youth Lagoon also fold that distinct distorted guitar density into silky, soporific drones. Even modern dream pop darlings like M83 are indebted to those hypnotic soundscapes.

So as a tribute to M.B.V.'s far-reaching influence, we here present albums from the above artists, plus a few more, who have kept the heart of Loveless blissfully beating.