I was 27 when My Bloody Valentine put out their masterpiece, Loveless, in 1991; close to the age my father was when The Byrds came out with Mr Tambourine Man, in 1965. The two are defining templates of their ages, showing me how out of touch I was with the time, as my father was with his.
When I played The Byrds’ album for my dad a few years ago in a car ride up to Maine, he liked the music; he only said he wish they’d tone down the guitars – they were too jangly… Well, for me for so long, My Bloody Valentine, on account of the guitars, sounded like My Muddy Valentine. For each of us, though, we saw a portal into a new world, one of a potential intimacy we missed.
When I hear Loveless, at the same time, I always feel as if each successive song had already played: I hear one, and I’m not sure, say, if it’s “Soon”, “Loomer”, “Touched”, or “To Here Knows When”. There’s a mysterious, sensual, pounding drama in each, like you are crossing wet stones of a river, and you don’t know which one is closest to the other shore, or whether, maybe, the last one doesn’t reach close enough to the shore, and you will fall in, splashing head wet in the waves.
As I here the record each time, each time with more depth, it brings me farther into that time of my late twenties, stretching into my early thirties, testing my emotional thresholds, splashes of cold that turn into glorious comfort. The songs build like themes and variations, the scherzos, largos, minutes, and moderatos of symphonies, the spinning wheels of kaleidoscopes.
Where Mr Tambourine Man showed the way of a procrustean post-war culture to a world of unity and love and action, Loveless takes the victim of the disaffected eighties, and plunges him or her on a theme park rotorvator, with swirling murals on the circular walls, as the bottom falls out and she defies gravity, through centrifugal force.
My father introduced me to the rotorvator at Paragon Park in Nantasket, in 1969, when I was five. It was great, more scientific revelation to me than kids’ fun, knew knowledge given to me by my father, who was less comfortable than I was, and got dizzy.
Each time Loveless ends, with “Soon”, with the slingshot drums and rhythm guitar behind the drop dead spacey up and down tones of the lead, like an alternating current, it is overwhelming, more so each time. It keeps taking you back to the spot of the crime, where my heart was ripped out, and now it’s back and pumped full with more blood, sex, sugar, magic, a beautiful toxic beat to take into the chain of nights of the future.