My Bloody Valentine
m b v
It is impossible to speak of the new My Bloody Valentine release m b v without seeing the relation to that which came before, the band's landmark 1991 release Loveless. New Musical Express regards it as the 11th greatest album of all time (Rolling Stone only gives it 221/550), but in any event, the record changed rock music forever. The making of it nearly bankrupted Creation Records, drove MBV leader Kevin Shields into an exhausted withdrawal from the public eye, and sent shoegazing wannabe bands to fits trying to replicate the album's wall of guitar sound.
No one ever really did, and in the 21 years since its release the record has become a obsession among rabid listeners, many of whom were only five or so years old when it came out. Then in early February of 2013 the band hinted that the follow-up to Loveless was ready, and on the 2nd they released m b v, crashing their website in the process and setting off a world-wide frenzy of interest and delighted fans. Available only as a digital download currently (the band self-released the record), a listener can't help but wonder if it is Loveless's equal.
Yes and no. Loveless is a large rock in the river of guitar-based music, forever altering what comes after. When you first heard it, you became entranced by its engulfing, claustrophobic sound and spent hours attempting to decipher the lyrics until you finally gave up and let the oceans of sound wash over you. That record had the shock of something new that further explorations along similar lines won't have. m b v is a great record, no doubt, but like the second-born son, will never be thought of in the same light.
The nine-song album is split into three "states" for lack of a better word. The first three songs, "She Found Now," "Only Tomorrow," and "Who See You" are Loveless Part 2, with the swirling, treated guitars of Shields and Bilinda Butcher and massive drumming of Colm O Coisoig sounding familiar. The fourth song, "Is This and Yes," with its washes of keyboards and Butcher's ethereal vocals, sounds a bit like Stereolab, while "New You" chugs along with a dance-floor- ready pop sensibility that might have long-time fans wondering if they hadn't put Wire's Chairs Missing in the CD player. The final three songs end the record on a brutal, crushing note, with Shields hammering your ears with a relentless mixture of fucked-up guitar and drums on "In Another Way" that builds and builds the tension until the song falls apart in random electronic blips. The final cut, "Wonder 2" finds Shields singing atop what seems to be a jet airplane taking off.
My Bloody Valentine makes music that sounds unlike anyone else's. Somehow they can find beauty in the most ugly of sounds, and while it's music that isn't emotionally inviting, it gets under your skin if you let it -- ask all those fans of Loveless that have been holding their breath for 21 years waiting for a follow-up. No, m b v will never invoke the adoration of what came before, and it's doubtful that in 20 years it's fans will be as eager for a follow-up, if it comes to that. My Bloody Valentine has created something that will never be topped, even by themselves. Long live the king. Long live My Bloody Valentine.