Two years in the making, and totally and completely obsessed over by Kevin Shields until every single ounce of spontaneity had been wringed from every microsecond of music, Loveless is a record that took me some time to love as much as I respected.
Usually, I like my rock ‘n’ roll a tad more human than the unearthly sounds that made up the vast majority of Loveless, so while I appreciated all of the different guitar sounds that Shields had uncovered, I’ll admit to never being quite as whelmed — much less overwhelmed — as the rest of the known universe.
Of course, as I’ve written before, the autumn of 1991 and the winter of 1992 featured so much great music that I didn’t even get around to getting Loveless until March 1992, and it’s entirely possible that my ears were a little bit weary from dealing with all of the awesome music (the Illusion twins, Girlfriend, Apocalypse ’91, Bandwagonesque, Achtung Baby! & Nevermind) of the preceding months. And I know that my heart was weary from my band breaking up for the third strike around that time.
Luckily, I’ve had a quarter-century to figure it out.
Kicking of with a quick-ass roll from drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig — who was sick throughout most of the sessions, meaning that most of the drums were really drum loops, something I musta picked up on at the time — “Only Shallow” explodes with the sound of knife sliding around on open toaster coils before settling into a spongy groove over which Bilinda Butcher songs a vocal melody she probably already knows will be buried so low in the mix it doesn’t matter what the words are.
Which is true on “Only Shallow:” what matters is the contrast between the relatively quiet (only 4000 guitars) verses, and the utter explosions of light and matter that surrounds those verses.
As a table-setter for the rest of Loveless, “Only Shallow” works perfectly for setting up song after song that alternates almost matter-of-fact ground-breaking guitar supporting the verses and insanely intrusive ground-breaking guitar tearing them apart.
“Only Shallow” official music video
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