Imagine you’re starting a record collection from scratch. In THE Record Collection – we’re asking some infamous diggers; people who eat, sleep and drink music – to build it for you – one piece and one week at a time.

#007 My Bloody Valentine ‘Loveless’

Label: Creation

Year: 1991

Chosen by Cian O Ciobhain


“I didn’t realise until I began writing about ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine, possibly my favourite record of all time, how impossible a task it is to try and explain to you how much it means to me and why … without coming across like a complete tosser. But I’ll give it a shot.

The instant I heard ‘Loveless’, it felt like part of my DNA. I’m not alone in this regard. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world share this uncanny feeling (scroll down through YouTube clips of any of said tracks from the LP), in that each time they revisit the record, they get the preternatural feeling that they are somehow listening to an inner voice that reminds them of who they are/were. The record has subtly mainlined its way into my/your/their dreams, memories and sense of self. Whenever I wander in its slipstream, I feel like I am immediately connected to my imagined ‘true’ self (whatever that may be), or, at the very least, a younger, more innocent ‘self’.

When was the first time I heard ‘Loveless’? If I were relying on memory, I would guess that it was a fine evening in the family home in early autumn 1991, shortly upon returning to school after the summer holidays. My recall is that the first copy in west Kerry was purchased – on cassette – by a guy in my circle of friends, Seán Ó Sé, and eventually that the album was lent to every music-lover in the school over the course of the following weeks, as we took turns to make copies for our Walkmans.

my-bloody-valentine-But memory is notoriously unreliable and as I check out the LP’s Wikipedia page, I note that it wasn’t released until early November of that same year. By then the evenings had gotten shorter, there was a nip in the air and so by the time I must have actually finally got around to hearing it, it was at a much later stage of the year, which is totally out of kilter with my own experience of this record, a record that I’ve long associated with the fading glow of summer’s slow, languorous cross-fade into early autumn.

It’s perhaps no surprise that my memory of hearing the record for the first time is so much at odds with how I probably did experience it, for ‘Loveless’ truly is a record like no other. I believe it has forged its own utterly unique nook in the music canon, sounding like no other record before it or since (though so many have tried to imitate it). It is a record that constantly bewilders and beguiles.

If your ear is tuned to the history of music and the rise of ‘shoegaze’ guitar rock, an educated guess would place its release around 1989-93. However, I feel that the record also possesses a certain timelessness, in that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it had been dreamed up by a commune of acid-glazed freaks in some alternate Laurel Canyon of the late sixties or early seventies. Sometimes (Side B, track 2), when my imagination goes into overdrive – hyperbole alert (!) – I envisage it might have been conceived in some distant star factory, detonating into existence through some mega-burst of star formation, all pink-hued and aglow in solar rays.

There have been tomes written about how the record came into being, how it almost bankrupted Alan McGee and his label Creation Records and scribes more eloquent than I, have almost managed to describe its unique, almost synesthetic sound (the colours on the albums sleeve seem to ‘look’ like how it ‘sounds and vice-versa). Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher’s vocals are deliberately obscure and the record was conceived of unusual production techniques, unorthodox tuning systems, sampled feedback and guitar tremolo (‘Tremelo’ also being the title of an EP released earlier the same year), all of which lends the album its dreamy, ethereal, almost otherworldly glow.

* * * * *

I have just spent an hour trying to describe more reasons why ‘Loveless’ means so much to me but I had to delete every single paragraph that I wrote. It’s such an unfathomable record and everything I wrote about it ended up sounding too affected, too ostentatious, so I’ve canned all I’d written and hope that the above words do the record some justice.

Strangely, for a record I know so intimately, I often get the song-titles confused. Play any track for me in isolation and I might very likely get the title wrong. Like all great albums, the sum is more than its parts and is best experienced in the sequence it was programmed it, from ‘Only Shallow’ through to ‘Soon’. Usually when I stick it on, I immediately want to repeat the experience. So, enough said, I’ve got the record in my hand right now and I’m going to stop writing about synesthesia and star factories and put it on the platter on and spin to it. More than likely, twice.”Cian O CiobhainChosen by Cian O Ciobhain
Cian hails from West Kerry and is a DJ and radio presenter with Raidio Na Gaeltachta. He is based in Galway.