March 24, 2004



Pleased to see Jon Dale defending Loveless against attack from Tim Johson (supported, surprisingly, by one Simon R in the comments box).

My view is that Loveless is the mistresspiece it is so often held to be. What I enjoy is its lack of dynamics, the drowned world amniotic languor of its achieved plateau. The fact that 'every track sounds the same' is usually a compliment in my book, and is especially so here. It is the courageous band who discover a plane of consistency and have the vision to occupy and explore it, refusing the temptation to 'demonstrate their breadth'. All great albums are variations on a theme. They draw us into another world, their world, to which we must attune and acclimatize ourselves. We need to develop new microperceptive faculties in order to orient ourselves, or in order to accept our disorientation (blissoreintation?)

Isn't Anything is a great album, for sure, but it's the sound of a band still escaping from rock. No doubt that gives the album a sense of drama that is absent from the anti-climax that is Loveless. Isn't Anything has more jagged edges, a terrain whose variegation makes it more palatable to rock tastes. Loveless, by contrast, is a world with no edges, a world of deceptive similarity in which it is easy to become lost (for to locate yourself here you must lose yourself): an Irigarayan vaginal anarchitecture, a Turneresque squall, in which the tracks are not so much the same as undifferentiatable, everything is smeary, bleary, blurred, slurred. Listening, you're drawn towards images of what is neither solid nor liquid, but viscous: honey, molasses, clotted blood.

Loveless' sumptuousness is dedicated to the lightheaded heaviness of dreambliss (so close to nightmare dread it sometimes seems that it is only a matter of perspective that divides one from the other), the woozy, heavy-lidded surrender of agency in sleep; or to sleep, to desire, to the erasure-of-the self that is involved in both. Loveless is the sound of a body that might be famished or might be voluptuously satiated. The sound of a someone having their blood drained and also the sound of somoene engorged on a new kill's blood; the becoming of vampire and victim (which may also be the becoming of mother and child). Gorged and gorgeous.

re:Simon's recent spot-on comments on crunk's carnality: is there a more carnal music than Loveless? Shadowing crunk's jaded carnival is the sadness that dogs all pornoscopic desire. Jess's comparison of crunk with men shouting at strippers is all-too apt. The homosocial bawling, the emphasis on appropriation through the gaze, the equation of sexual congress with affirmation of ego, all those hard edges, all that bluster, all that distance (the distance that the eye - unable to touch - imposes), what a contrast with the almost unbearable tactility, the cloying intimacy, of Loveless. And doesn't Loveless' soft delirium show up the painful pathos of masculinity, doesn't it, in its yielding dampness, expose the horrible fact that male desire perforce involves a hardening? Where crunk fiercely insists on binaries - on he who fucks and she who is fucked, and he, the consumer and she, the meat - Loveless' mathematics are of the Irigarayan not-one; neither one nor two, the geometry of lips, eroticism as a feast in which eating and being eaten become indistinguishable.

Loveless isn't suffocating so much as an invitation to breathe in a new way. Rock's propulsion and compulsion, its scurrying towards release, is suspended, perpetually deferred, captured in a dilating tension. Check the way the drums are buried in the mix: a mother's hearbeat heard from inside the womb. In fact, everything is buried in the mix - it's as if it's all background and no foreground - yes, everything is buried, everything is submerged in a serene, seething, succulent, sucking swamp where regular sonic laws do not hold (you find yourself unable to say whether the album is trebly or bassy; the sonic geography of high and low is smoothed into indifferentiation).

Posted by mark at March 24, 2004 08:28 PM | TrackBack

wonderful. hairs on my neck are standing up.
ps close your itallics tag ;-)

Posted by: pete at March 25, 2004 09:16 AM

Which is all very well and good, but personally these aren't things that excite me. I've tried hard - I really have - to explore the possible resonances, depths and meanings within Loveless, but it just doesn't yield any for me. But really, my biggest reservation is that for someone who has constructed himself so thoroughly as a sonic wizard as Shields has, he is seemingly content to limit himself to something so anti-affective, so undynamic - as you say, an anticlimax.

But I am prepared to concede that MBV live (by all accounts) was a very different story.

Posted by: Tim at March 25, 2004 09:49 AM

Oooops, sorry about the italics tag, will close it when I get home; weirdly, unlcosed italics tags don't show up on my browser at home. Dunno why....

Don't really see Loveless as anti-affective. on the contrary, actually. But it is anti-climatic, for sure....

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 25, 2004 10:48 AM

Its like the sea: is that anti-affective or anti-climactic? Its just there: you can sink in it, drown in it, be buffeted by its waves, be irritated by it. Its immersive.

It also, i think, has one of the best album covers in that it seems to represent its contents: blurred/incoherant/sensual/indistinct

Anyway: brilliant piece Mr K-Punk: made me dig it out and put it on again.

Posted by: Baal's liver at March 25, 2004 11:21 AM

Wonderfully written piece. I would just add that I think Loveless is more dynamic, less completely blissed than the likes of SeeFeel or whomever else. Which is to MBV's credit . . . . Simon R suggests that the EPs are better than Loveless. I'd say that some of MBV's best tracks, e.g., "I Believe" off Feed Me (or is it Made Me Realize?), are on the EPs, but that the albums are generally better. Still not sure where I come down between Loveless and Isn't Anything, depends on the day

Posted by: Dominic at March 25, 2004 04:04 PM

Thanks Dom, I did like Seefeel as I recall (haven't heard em in years) ... As I say, though, it's the LACK of dynamics I enjoy in Loveless - tho I am beginning to lose what is meant by 'dynamics'..... I like the eps but I think they're manifestly inferior to Loveless...

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 25, 2004 06:31 PM

mark, check out this.
i found it while preparing the noise paper. There is some amazing 'northern european' delineation in composition going on, and it is a very positive piece (I have just remembered its a little simplistic in places).
But you will enjoy the descriptaeons of MBV live I am sure.
butYes, MBV certainly took the melting depopulated drone to an absolute plane and then carved liquid sculptures for us all to feel...
makes you want to talk to Kevin Shields... esp round about that time (I take it everyone knows about the semi-mythical 'junked' albums for creation that were finished but erm... not quite good enough...
which kind of raises the question of direction when you have reached and created at such an absurdly impeccable level... and here I think about Main as a fantastic group / unit who started in similarly if more sparsely populated drone zones, and flew off into the exploration of absolute singular / simple-yet-not drone'n'contrast pieces...

Posted by: al at March 25, 2004 07:19 PM

Al, yeh, this bit was a trifle unfortunate:

'By 1991 the development of guitar noise seemed to come to an end, culminating with My Bloody Valentine's Loveless as a worthy CLIMAX.'

But yeh love the general description of MBV: 'every sound seems to be growing out of nowhere, with no distinct edge' and of course
'visions of being swallowed up by a giant vagina.'

Posted by: mark k-punk at March 25, 2004 07:43 PM