It's well known to those who are close to me that one of my all time favorite bands is My Bloody Valentine. In my opinion, they are one of the few bands that transcend the cliche trappings of rock music. Their work is required listening for any student of the electric guitar. Their sound is mysterious, opaque, gorgeous yet abrasive, hypnotic, sublime, and just awesome in the true sense of the word.
I discovered the band via their genre defining album Loveless. I wasn't impressed by the album with my first listen, nor after a few subsequent listens. At the time I was accustomed to traditional rock standards like lead guitar riffs, definable verse/chorus structure, prominent vocal melodies and a driving drum beat. Loveless takes apart these tropes and spits them back out in a post modern swirl of psychedelic feedback and droning distortion. Above the fray float buried and obscured voices that betray gender in androgynous, ghostly whispers.
I hadn't a clue what I was listening to. There was no center on which to hold. There was no charismatic front-singer to guide me to a song's message; there were only cryptic titles such as Loomer, To Here Knows When, and Sometimes. Songs didn't really begin or end, they just fell out of the sky and meandered off into a fade-out. Although I was puzzled, I shelved the album and resolved myself to return later.
I can't remember when it clicked for me at last, but sometime around my 18th birthday I gave them another listen and was floored. I wish I could remember what happened up to that point that enabled me to hear Loveless with new ears, but whatever it was, I was hooked. I can't say anything that hasn't been said already countless times over the decades by other critics and fans, but what I can say is that My Bloody Valentine's music is a part of who I am and shaped how I live.
With the release of that album, My Bloody Valentine helped kick off the shoegazing genre of alternative rock music in the early 90s. This was a underappreciated genre at the time, experiencing a brief spotlight in the UK indie scene then falling out of favor upon the rise of mid-90s Brit rock. Shoegaze bands were derided at worst, quietly applauded at best, and then delegated to a footnote as the music press moved on.
By the turn of the century and mid 2000s, a shoegaze revival would be declared as the genre's characteristic hallmarks returned to the underground scene: heavily effected and loud guitars, beautifully mesmerizing and buried vocals, all delivered with a detached, introspective manner.
Shoegaze was such a big part of my life that I started a band with two of my best friends called Broaddaylight. So much of my musical education was gained through the work of that band. I learned first hand what it meant to be a musician, the trials and challenges of recording music, and what it takes to be a performing artist. As our band rose through the ranks of the Los Angeles live music scene, I had the honor of striking up friendships and partnerships with other musicians who challenged me to push my creative limits. This particular type of music which is at times gorgeous but discordant had a lasting impression on my life's story. Shoegaze music is just like life, which is beautiful yet painful simultaneously.
As a self-professed music geek, many bands have come and gone through out my fandom. Some have lasting power, others are a flash in the pan, but of the few albums I return to, Loveless holds a special and very dear place in my heart. When I need to get lost, when I need to feel blanketed in warmth and distortion, I know what to turn on. For an album titled in such a way as Loveless, it is anything but absent of love. It is the sound of falling head over heels, lost in a heart-violet glow.