My Bloody Valentine
m b v
9 out of 10
It's been what, 22 years since My Bloody Valentine released their seminal album, Loveless? Since 1991, there have been a myriad of promises from My Bloody Valentine's leader and consummate perfectionist, Kevin Shields, that a follow-up album was well on its way.
As the years (and decades) passed, these promises slowly became punchlines to loyal, yet disappointed fans. In the interim, Wire and Louis Armstrong were covered, the band split-up, Shields scored a film between bouts of remixing other band's songs with his signature note-bending flair, the band reunited, Isn't Anything, Loveless and collection of EPs and rarities were remastered and released (well, in the UK, anyway), and promises of new material again began to surface directly from the MBV camp of not just a new album (partially containing previously shelved tracks), but a follow-up EP, as well--both of which were finally seeing the light of day at the end of 2012.
As the tail-end of last year faded into the ether, so to did any and all faint hopes that the new My Bloody Valentine record release would surface. As die hard fans, we've been here so, so many times; when the new record didn't materialize, it wasn't really a big surprise. I mean, sure, there was fleeting glimpses of hope, but of the shoulder-shrugging variety when Shield's follow-through proved empty ...again.
(A YouTube clip featuring a live performance of a new song was a bit exciting, but, you know. I mean, you're a fan. You know. You've had your chain yanked by this band, like, a kajillion times by now.)
Then today happened. Saturday, February 2nd, 2013. The promises of studio tinkering, mastering, track listing, and getting everything sorted out were, well, actually true! Today, the world finally has a new My Bloody Valentine record. I know, I know. I can't believe it either, but here it is, wafting from my computer speakers as I type these words.
So, the verdict? Was this new record, simply titled after the band's initials, worth the 22 year wait? Well, yes and no, but mostly yes.
The moment word of this album's release started making the rounds online, I immediately Googled "My Bloody Valentine" to confirm that Shields and Co. had indeed pulled the trigger and surprised-attacked their fans with a new record. Jumping on the band's website I immediately downloaded the mp3 version of the record (with promises to myself to order a vinyl copy of the album as soon as I'm finished boring you here). I was at once elated, giddy and impatient as the transfer crawled across my computer's download box. What have you been working on all these years, Mr. Shields? I must know NOW!!!
As the crashing waves of opener "She Found Now" roll in, it becomes very clear that m b v is unmistakably and distinctly not Loveless 2.0. On first listen, m b v sounds more like a collection of songs than an wholly conceived album. Fortunately, the songs in this collection are absolutely brilliant. I think it's safe to say that if you're a fan of the soundscapes and tone-bending soft-focus textures this band is legendary for, you will definitely be transfixed by the nine songs here.
Where Loveless felt like a singularly conceived album proper from start to finish--featuring bridges and arcs between its 11 songs--m b v 's songs are islands unto themselves, with those "dusted-off" ditties rubbing distorted shoulders with newer compositions. Front-loaded with songs that move at a glacial pace, the second half of the album begins with the languid and bouncy "New You" then immediately shifts to a more guttural and angular territory with "In Another Way," "Nothing Is" and album closer "Wonder 2" (is that an actual jet plane fly-by noise I hear running through this song, or has Shields discovered yet another sustained note inconceivable by your average, every day guitar player?) This two-sided dichotomy gives m b v an almost two-albums-in-one feel.
That said, the ride provided here, albeit slightly disjointed, is so, so, so damned delicious. Shields is a perfectionist, and it shows over m b v 's nine songs. Every note, ever phase shift, every incomprehensible lyric sounds like they are all exactly where he wanted them placed. It's hard not to listen to the opening melodic salvo of "Only Tomorrow" and not get arosed. No, seriously; who wouldn't want to schtupp to this song as its beautifully-bent notes and melodies twist and weave like a phantom floating around one's synapses?
And what would a My Bloody Valentine record be with Bilinda Butcher's breathy and seductive contributions? "Is This and Yes" finds her breadcrumb vocals dotted between flashing pulsars and Music From the Hearts of Space-esque keyboard flourishes. On "If I Am," Butcher beckoning listeners down gossamer corridors Captured Tracks entire roster works tirelessly to perfect (Full Disclosure: this writer admires every single band over at Captured Tracks, and considers this record label to be one of the absolute best going today). In his full arsenal of studio sorcery and attention to sonic details only he can register, Kevin Shields' greatest arrow in My Bloody Valentine's quiver may just be Bilinda Butcher.
In no uncertain terms, m b v is a great record; an extremely welcome return. Was it worth the 22 year delay? Absolutely. Will it sate the appetite of die hard and casual fans of this band's music? No doubt. Those more passive ears looking for the shimmering A-Z cacophony of Loveless won't find it here (that album you can buy a remastered version of, if you haven't already managed to purchase a copy for the criminally bargain-binned price of $7.99). No, this record bears the initials of a band that's the brainchild of a man who slaved over it on-and-off for a little over two decades, and he's decided to branch-out his blissed-out sound structures ever so subtly. And that's a very good thing, indeed.
Here endeth those previous broken promises. Finally.