My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 seminal master work Loveless is one of my all time favourite albums. The ultimate album of a new genre, the apex of the shoegaze scene, MBV’s second album was exciting and fresh, ground breaking and fearless, even if it was rumoured to almost bankrupt the Creation label. We fans of the British band drowned ourselves in the swirly guitars and buried to the centre of the earth vocals and waited for their follow up.
Twenty one plus fucking years we waited.
Waiting for albums from bands and artists who suffer from what I call prefect musical vision syndrome often backfires ( Chinese Democracy). In the rare occasions where it does work (Smile), the results are euphoric for you as the fan. But My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields came off as being a different kind of perfectionist. somewhere around MBV’s 1999 “breakup”, I began to realise that the band that had created one of the albums that changed my life would never actually put out new music. The lack of any music releases after the breakup lead me to believe that Shields was just not interested in making his own music any more.
So the November 2012 announcement from Shields that an album would be released shortly- well, I wrote on my Facebook page (and in my New Years post ) that I wouldn’t believe it until I had a copy in my cold, bitter hands. Also something about Kevin Shields coming to deliver it to my house ( I ordered the vinyl/cd/digital package from their website- one of the best deals in music, honest to dog). Now that the music is here, what do I think, what do I want to say? Is it better than Loveless? Is it as good? Does it suck?
It most definitely does not suck. It’s brilliant.
Well, it’s not better than Loveless. Very few things are better than Loveless (seventeen things, to be precise). It’s also not as good as Loveless. At least, I don’t think so right now at this moment. MBV albums are growers. I thought Loveless was lesser than Isn’t Anything for a while. Due to the complexity and dense nature of the sonic tones and mixes used by the band, multiple listens are required before you say anything. I’m on my thirteenth listen since last night. What I am feeling, on top of sheer, unadulterated joy, is that what we have here is a brilliant album, and if Loveless didn’t exist, there would be no question still about the genius of this band.
What is different is the little hints of out-and-out melody. I once said of MBV that they buried the melodies so deep under the noise that if you found it, you should be awarded a MacArthur grant. There are more distinct melodic vocal lines, and then there are songs where the keyboard becomes the focus, creating a prettier sound. It’s still pure noise, let me make this clear, but it’s less structured and slightly less precise.
And yes, it does sound like Loveless, especially the first third of the record. The band hasn’t messed around too much with their signature guitar sound. At the same time, it is still completely modern. It sounds as though the songs began taking shape in 1993/1994, and could have been produced there, but the music still sounds so new and of the moment. The guitars still swirl, the bass still drones, the drums still sharply attack you, the vocals of Bilinda Butcher still sweetly ring through without any definition of words, Shields’ voice still trips over the feedback. But the melodies also hint at their 1988 début album as well. I am fascinated how this band created an album so retro and so today at the same time. It’s a gift.
The last third of the album fascinates me because it seems clear to me these were the tracks that Kevin Shields was going on about. Rumour was that of the sixty hours of material MBV turned over to Island sometime in the late 90s, there was a strong element of jungle inspired music. This should not surprise anyone (MBV were friends and label mates of Primal Scream, after all). While I hear the shoegaze pioneers all over the album, the heavier beats under the last three tracks is what really moves the album into “the future”. MBV is making shoegaze almost danceable. Considering the genre was so named because the band infamously mumbled into their mics while staring down at the floor during live performances, this is revolutionary. You can still make music genres BETTER with some drum and bass. ( These three songs may just be playing on my fifteen year old heart, which lied firmly and simultaneously in the alt rock and rave cultures of the early 90s, and you will never make me choose between the two).
They didn’t try to top the masterpiece, but instead focused on creating the best album they could after all the breakdowns and a label issues and years and projected hopes and dreams of a fan base that has grown exponentially over the last twenty-two years. Kevin Shields and company instead just released the first great and important album of 2013. It’s flawless. It’s perfect. It’s My Bloody Valentine. And it was worth the wait.
My Bloody Valentine mbv: A
- “She Found Now” – 5:06
- “Only Tomorrow” – 6:22
- “Who Sees You” – 6:12
- “Is This and Yes” – 5:07
- “If I Am” – 3:54
- “New You” – 4:59
- “In Another Way” – 5:31
- “Nothing Is” – 3:34
- “Wonder 2” – 5:52
Released February 3, 2013 (GMT Time) on http://www.mybloodyvalentine.org/
Produced by Kevin Shields