How do you go about releasing an album the world has waited on for nearly twenty-two years? Apparently from your website late on a Saturday night, with little warning. Then to tease us further, the website crashes from the traffic.
During their initial run, My Bloody Valentine released a handful of EPs and two essential LPs, 1988’s Isn’t Anything and 1991’s Loveless, the latter especially becoming a landmark in the height of the shoegaze era. Leader Kevin Shields, a noted perfectionist of guitar noise, nearly bankrupted Creation Records during the lengthy crafting of Loveless, foreshadowing the wait to come. After its release, the band signed to Island and used their advance to build a studio, but following a myriad of technical issues coupled with Shields’ inability to be satisfied with his material, all the band released were a couple compilation tracks. Reportedly, Shields recorded and scrapped at least one full album, and another report says he turned in 60 hours of music to Island during the later half of the 90s. But a new album never saw the light of day.
In 2007 the quartet reunited and already started baiting us with talks of new material as they toured the festival circuit. Shields said in an interview in 2008, "I realized that all that stuff I was doing in 1996 and 1997 was a lot better than I thought" and the once-abandoned album was given new life. Still, it wasn’t until late 2012 that we got any concrete information about studio happenings. Then, finally, late on Feb. 2, 2013, m b v greeted the world.
On opener “She Found Now” the touchstones are there: thick, fuzzy, swirling guitars and ghostly, unintelligible vocals. Shield’s vocals are a bit higher in the mix than we are used to, but still used as another instrument rather than to convey lyrical ideas. “Only Tomorrow” ushers in the looping, mesmerizing drums we associate with the band, and couples it with guitars that are somehow buzzier than ever. Showcasing the art of whammy bar, “Who See You” bends chords in and out of shape to sail you across a sea of distortion as insistent tambourine holds things together.
Track 4 “Is This and Yes” breaks the mold with a keyboard dirge buoying Bilinda Butcher’s vocals. I had hoped for some of the bendy synth leads that pepper Loveless, but on m b v they take on a more supportive role. “New You” recalls a more Isn’t Anything feel, with lighter tremolo guitar and a strong bass and drum groove from Debbie Googe and Colm ÓCiosóig, respectively. You’ll get about halfway through “Nothing Is” before you realize it only has one chord--perhaps a bit of filler but it contains some of the album’s most powerful and trance-inducing drumming.
The album ends just as strong as it started. The bridges of “In Another Way” layer pointy guitar jabs over delicate synths and Butcher’s climbing vocal line. “Wonder 2” sounds like it was recorded inside a wind tunnel as phased drum fills end the album like a jet plane landing.
It’s obviously very difficult to judge how this record stacks up against an album I’ve loved for so long. Against all odds, My Bloody Valentine managed to put together an album that keeps enough of the elements that made us cherish Loveless, while stretching their sonic palette just enough to keep things interesting. m b v was worth the wait.