Just in case you haven’t figured this out yet, let me say that I have this tendency to get a little obsessed with things, which can lead to some spur-of-the-moment decisions. For example, I started to get excited about My Bloody Valentine again once rumors started going around that the long-awaited follow-up to 1991’s Loveless was imminent. Then mbv appeared one Saturday evening. I love the record, and I returned to listening to My Bloody Valentine in earnest. I found myself hoping against hope for a US tour. When LA’s FYF Fest announced that My Bloody Valentine would be headlining, I bought my GA pass and booked a hotel.
So now, in a pretty cooldad-ish move, I’ll be going to a music festival in California late this August, one week after my 25th high school reunion.
My Bloody Valentine, and especially Loveless, can inspire people. That inspiration results in different things for different people. For me, it’s an impulsive trip to Southern California. For Kenny Feinstein, frontman for Portland roots rockers Water Tower, it’s a cover of the entire Loveless album using acoustic guitar, mandolin, dobro, fiddle, and dulcimer. Loveless: Hurts to Love makes abundantly clear what I think is the great appeal of Loveless. Peeling back the layers of distortion and noise reveals that there are songs in there.
Loveless: Hurts to Love recreates the order of the original record and adds a cover of “Swallow,” from the Tremolo EP. There’s something amazing about hearing the recognizable riffs, if that’s what you’d call them, from songs like “Only Shallow,” “When You Sleep,” “I Only Said,” and “Soon” rendered totally by acoustic instruments. The studio manipulations of Kevin Shields are re-imagined as some kind of wild, bluegrass cacophony; and they still sound like shoegaze.
“Loomer” transforms the original’s beautiful wall of electric guitar sound into something beautifully spare, relying on the wail of a fiddle and handclaps. Similarly, the exotic sounds of “Swallow” become something distinctly American in Feinstein’s hands, while retaining the feel of the original.
Feinstein plays most of the instruments on Loveless: Hurts to Love, with assists from co-producers Jeff Kazor and Bruce Kaphan and singer-songwriter Richard Buckner. Together, these four succeed in creating a new way for diehard fans to appreciate a classic, while potentially introducing a whole new audience to the sounds of shoegaze.
While I’m standing there among the twenty-somethings, My Bloody Valentine on stage in the Southern California night, the opening strains of “Soon” pulsing through the crowd, I know I won’t be able to keep myself from thinking of Feinstein’s version. The great success of Hurts to Love is that I won’t be comparing. Instead, I’ll be thinking about how well the versions complement each other.
Loveless: Hurts to Love is due out September 17th via Fluff & Gravy Records.