It’s rather hard for me not to feel a twinge of nostalgia as I think back a quarter of a century. Through my great friends, Craig Breaden, Joel Haskard, and Kevin McCormick, I was discovering a world of neo-psychedelic pop. Lush, organic, voluptuous. The Sundays, Catherine Wheel, The Charlatans, House of Love, Mazzy Star, Jane’s Addiction, and the Cocteau Twins were in full (and fulsome!) form. Phish, Smashing Pumpkins, and Lush were about to hit it big, though I really had no idea just how big they would hit.
Even old mainstays such as The Cure and XTC were releasing some of their best material at the same time.
Twenty-five years ago this week, though, I was listening to an album that intrigued me almost as much as once MOVING PICTURES and 90125 had intrigued an earlier version of me. From the opening few seconds of the album—an insane barrage of guitar—I knew this album was something special, a work of art rather than of commerce.
The name of the band and the album embarrassed me, but not in a way that I actually found embarrassing. Instead, its open cynicism cut to the quick, revealing an honesty that the world sorely needed and still needs. LOVELESS by My Bloody Valentine. Holy schnikees—a lot for a good, romantic, Catholic boy to take in at once.
Yet, twenty-five years ago, this album was fresh. And, indeed, it’s never spoiled, even a quarter of a century later. From that opening barrage of “Only Shallow” to the final fade of “Soon,” nearly 49 minutes later, this album is as cohesive in tone as well as lyrics as anything the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Genesis, or Pink Floyd ever produced as an official “concept” album. Additionally, this very Irish band somehow tapped into the best of minimalist Simple Minds as much as it did into the coherence of Pink Floyd.
LOVELESS was the first album I’d ever heard from this band, and it would prove to be the last My Bloody Valentine made until a rebirth in 2013.
The hardcore progress among us today might readily dismiss those few years before Spock’s Beard released THE LIGHT and Marillion, BRAVE. For those of us in America who cherished prog, we had no idea that Third-Wave Prog was coming, and we were still living on what First-Wave Prog had produced. Sadly, we didn’t even know there was a second wave of prog.
Still, we found much to love in what was called college rock or alternative. Indeed, one might very well argue that the years 1989 to 1992 were some of the best ever in the history of pop and rock, a way station between the first and third waves.
As I look back over the past quarter of a century, I can also see how much these Neo-psychedelic pop bands of 1989 to 1992 influenced third-wave prog. Really, just think about Matt Steven, Sam Healy, iamthemorning, or, even, Kscope (as a label) for a moment. Prog, to be sure. But, also very much the inheritors of My Bloody Valentine, Lush, and The Sundays.
It’s January 2, 2017, and I’m enjoying LOVELESS as much now as I did twenty-five years ago.