Last Saturday, while the Internet was busy minding its own business, the My Bloody Valentine Facebook page issued this short missive:
Then, at 23:58 Greenwich Mean Time, www.mybloodyvalentine.org burst into existence, accompanied by m b v, the band’s third full length and their first album in 22 long, long years.
The site crashed within minutes.
If you’ve seen anyone wandering the street aimlessly, cloudy eyed and with a dirge leaking out of their headphones, that’s yet another popkid who’s still recovering from the shock of finding themselves living in a world where there’s a third My Bloody Valentine record. If you can imagine what a Pentecost experiencing the Rapture* would feel like, you’ll have a good idea of what these boys and girls are going through. The thing they’ve waited for, for what seems like their entire lives, is finally here, but they’re still not really prepared for it. All they can do is put it on ‘replay all’ and let it wash over them.
The first thing that popkid is gonna think once she recovers from that initial shock is, “Wow, nobody makes a My Bloody Valentine album like Kevin Shields.” And you know what? She’s right. Bands from the Scene That Celebrates Itself such as Slowdive and Ride (not to mention more recent Shoegaze revivalists like Asobi Seksu, Serena-Maneeesh, and Blonde Redhead, just to name a few**) all attempted their take on the My Bloody Valentine sound, to varying degrees of success, but none of them could ever properly replicate the wall of sound that Kevin Shields and company had devised for their seminal second record, 1991’s Loveless. What made that record so unique is how it managed to be delicate and nuanced, while, at the same time, it felt monolithic and impregnable. It was as if it was both liquid and solid at once; from that angle, it’s a duck, but from this one, it’s a rabbit.
While m b v definitely shares it’s sonic DNA with Loveless, to call it a follow-up or a sequel of some sort would be missing the point. Shields himself has said that the album has more in common with MBV’s first LP, Isn’t Anything, and I can see what he’s saying. Loveless is from the other side of the looking glass, while this album is more firmly planted in the real world, even if it is making frequent glances at the mirror. There’s even a little bit of the You Made Me Realize EP’s more standard approach floating around in here, too. But m v b is more than a bunch of throwbacks to the band’s late eighties/early nineties heyday; there’s something new going on, something less polished, something more playful.
Unlike most Shoegaze, this album isn’t afraid to sound like it’s having a bit of fun. This may come as a bit of a surprise to those who have heard the stories of Kevin Shields’ hermetically obsessive studio tweaking, the sleepless night and marathon recording sessions, but m b v sounds like it was fun to make. This is especially clear on my favorite track, “New You,” a lighthearted tune that one might even feel tempted to categorize as ‘funky’. Not that it’s all sunshine and roses: “Only Tomorrow” brings the classic MBV drone to it’s logical conclusion, while instrumental “Nothing Is” is one brutal chord over and over again. I hated it at first. Now I kinda dig it.
It’s not a perfect record, certainly. m b v is very poorly sequenced, and the second half of the album lacks any cohesive flow***. The whole thing just kinda sputters to a halt after the cool but also kinda uninteresting ‘Wonder 2,’ a drum-n-bass inspired attempt to out-dance-music Loveless closer “Soon.” But overall, m b v is a triumphant return from a too-long hiatus.
*Not the band, silly.
**And then even more recently a newer, arguably more interesting batch of Shoegaze revivalists such as The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, DIIV, and The Horrors… holy crap, does three revivals a proper genre make?
*** In fact, I’m beginning to feel like ‘collection’ is a better word for what’s going on here than ‘album.’
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