Review Summary: Deliriously sweet, disastrously open, subtly sexual; it’s an album you must fall in love with to appreciate.
Every time I listen to “Loveless”
I instantly gravitate to the song “Sometimes”. I am always reminded of Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation”
, a film that not only employed the song perfectly in one of its scenes, but also echoed the tender and thunderously beating heart of this album. Both seem to find solace in the helplessly extroverted romantics; characters that are set in a foreign and surreal lands who unintentionally fall into a love setting them up for heartbreak. As such, “Loveless”
is a celebration of the bittersweet depression caused by lost love. It’s an album that understands that the only thing permanent about romance is the pain it leaves when it’s gone. It’s an album that will destroy any preconceived notions of aural understanding and replace such ignorance with a new way of looking (yes, this is a very visual album) at the relationship between sound and melody, beauty and ugliness, bliss and despondency, etc and etc. The process involves first drowning one in an embalming fluid that embraces, and then, slowly pulverizing the listener. The question of how an album is able to craft such an engaging contradiction as “gentle abrasiveness”
remains an awe inspiring pathos to its disciples. Despite such influence, it’s remained an albatross around the neck of all shoegazer acts following in its wake, that not only destroyed the genre but destroyed the man who crafted the album in one fell swoop.
Much has been documented concerning the Brian Wilson-esc destructive perfectionism of Kevin Shields, and the many personal and monetary relationships ruined throughout the recording of this record. The seemingly endless and superfluous use of sampling, guitar effects, and studio tweaking creates an atmosphere on the album likely comparable to that of the several recording studios employed by the band at that time; meticulous and feverishly hallucinogenic. Such stories needn’t be rehashed into unnecessary platitudes, as one can tell just by listening to the careening saunter of the opening track “Only Shallow” that such cosmic and otherworldly synesthesia can only be achieved through blood, sweat, tears, and fuzz. In terms of execution it’s an experiment in supposed contradictions. The alchemical will-o-the-wisp
production is uncharacteristically rough around the edges to the point of being a hacksaw. The lyrics, while reportedly slaved over by the band, are nonetheless ambiguous and mostly indecipherable. One moment your ears will gravitate towards the abrasive guitar layers, while on the next, they’ll pick up on the gentler layers of keyboards and languorously strummed guitar. One can only assume that Kevin Shields set out to play with your emotions, with the only logical reaction being to lose focus, and let the layers and shades all blend together.
Though each song is overwrought in the same kind of ecstasy, they all act as individual set pieces by providing an endless well of otherworldly tones and deceptively simple and pristine pop melodies. The billowing smoke stack hum of “Loomer”, the babbling earthly whistle of “To Here Knows When”, the brawling mellotron tinged “What You Want” all share the same kind of loud and overbearing beauty, without ever sharing a similar inflection or tonality. It makes “Loveless”
a fantastically consistent mood piece, that remains fresh right up until the teasing extended pseudo-dance number of “Soon”. One of the most remarkable qualities of the album is just how its lurid construction will mislead you into hearing melodies that may or may not even exist. I hate attributing a band effort to a single person, though it has been indisputably documented that Shields was the cracked mastermind behind this sort of brilliance. He is simply a master of control and economic guitar playing; substance over technicality. Expressing a torrent of emotions simply through the various strumming of a modest collection of chords, Shields weaves magic by taken the residue of the sounds his instruments create, and pushing them to the foreground. Like many impressionist painters, he chooses to make his brush strokes broad and visible for all to see, wielding the tremolo bar as if it were an instrument in and of itself. The end result nearly reaches architectural cacophony; nearly
is thus, a black hole (or should I say, a reddish hole) whose centerpiece pulls you closer into near gravitational obliteration. The heavenly and seemingly endless mayday cry of “I Only Said”, the taught chaotics of “Come in Alone”, and of course, the relentlessly gorgeous “Sometimes” all work to crystallize the album into a momentary state of absolute perfection. The latter of which, acts as the unearthed throbbing heart of the entire album. It’s of no surprise then, that it contains some of the record’s only easily decoded lyrics. “Close my eyes, feel me now. I don’t know how you couldn’t love me now/Close my eyes, feel the high. I don’t know, but you could not love me now”
breathlessly whirs Shields as he helplessly contemplates why his love apparently means nothing to supposed anonymous lover. It’s a lyric that reveals that despite the album’s romantic nature, as the title suggests, it’s a document for the loveless. It’s a love note to all of those self sacrificial and star crossed romantics who are both dangerously open and naive to the insidious side effects of relationships.
“I want to love you/Yeah, don’t go there/I let you get to me/yeah…yeah”
sings the ghostly figure as the final track winds down to its breathless end. It’s a narcoleptic verse, and it’s one that sends off the album on such a picturesque note. The picture of falling asleep in a crowded airport terminal, with all of the gurgling noise and hustle blending into one sound. Roaring jets, shuffling feet, dream like perception, ghost notes, alien figures; all of which is transcribed aurally through the instruments into a controlled sense of urgency, a feeling of moving in place. Just as the use of “Sometimes” complimented “Lost in Translation”
so perfectly, the movie lends a new perspective to an album we all assumed had been perfectly deconstructed. The feeling of being helplessly stuck in a situation, where your only muse of sanity is through romanticized day dreaming seems to be what these two pieces of artwork represent. There’s a tension here; a tension between the foreground and the background as both evaporate and melt into one another. It’s a tension mirrored in the battle of logic and love, lust and romance. Excuse me for being so pretentious in my lauding, but there is hardly any other way to look at this album other than it being an allegorical emotion in and of itself.
Simply put, “Loveless”
is an album that seeks to capture unbiased and natural emotion. It’s an album containing an unmatched spectrum of sound and feelings; I urge you to simply absorb it rather than pursuing it. Despite the flickering kaleidoscopic range of its vision, the spiritual essence of "Loveless"
is boiled down to love. It’s the most mythologized and idealized form of love; the kind with no logic. Deliriously sweet, disastrously open, subtly sexual; it’s an album you must fall in love with to appreciate. Its warped tones will constantly attempt to woo you, and I can give no further advice in approaching this record other than to give in. You’ll find it as many others have over the course of nearly two decades, as a deeply personal monolith; evocative, anesthetized, and as primarily alluring and lucid as drunken sex. Love is a wandering, lingering feeling. It is a painfully choking and yet life affirming feeling. “Loveless”
will continue to linger and evade any single proper description, other than that it is the sound of falling in love; helplessly and stupidly.