To some listeners, Loveless might sound like a thrown together mess, but it was actually crafted over a two year period completely out of the mind of front man Kevin Shields. Perhaps overthought in its desire to sound completely different, it reshaped the role of guitars in the 90s rock cannon. Listening to Loveless is like being engulfed by the violent beauty of the sun. It’s a barrage of nuclear reactions and solar emissions surrounding my ears and giving me warmth. The bending chords and tremolo transitions are like atonal solar flares shooting out, surrounding my mind and overloading my senses. The swirling sonic radiation creates auroras in my earholes that leave me in awe. So as not to be burned, its stellar size sound is tempered by the crystalline voice of Bilinda Butcher. Like coming out of a sleep on a beach with the blinding bright heat pouring down, her voice comes through as formless shapes passing in the distance. I just can’t say enough solar hyperbole to demonstrate how much I love this album. It is just so overwhelmingly pretty.
Enter the contender (good luck)…
On Eliminator, ZZ Top are architects. Drafting the blueprints for a perfect blues-rock album. It’s got tight lines and clean edges (unlike the weightlessness of Loveless). A perfectly engineered piece of material. As a kid growing up in the golden age of music videos, Eliminator ingrained formative memories for me. That car. Those legs coming out of that car. Those women roughhousing that messy boy and making him over into that sharp dressed man. Those two beards and that one guy who didn’t have a beard. Those three fingers circling and pointing at that car as those women with those legs and that boy in that suit drive away. In grade school I had a buddy named Denny. He was a thickly built tall fella that seemed more mature than any of my other friends (now that I think about it, he probably failed a grade). He was the first to grow a mustache. He had a mullet hair cut that was tight and curly. He had a boom box at school which he played constantly (I never understood why we got away with blaring it in the hallways). The only thing I remember him playing was Eliminator. Everything about ZZ Top and Eliminator seemed like it was for an older crowd. Hell, I was only eight years old when it came out. Nowadays, the album just feels immature (maybe at the 10 year old level). Ultimately, Eliminator, just leaves me empty.
WINNER: My Bloody Valentine, Loveless (2 points)
Next week’s battle – #38: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Imperial Bedroom (1982) vs. Soundgarden, Superunknown (1994)