Never before have so many bearded men in their mid-thirties cried from a combination of sheer joy and frustration. Picture the scene: it’s been 22 years since My Bloody Valentine’s last album, 1991’s hugely influential Loveless. Since then front man Kevin Shields has repeatedly waved the possibility of a follow-up in front of what must be the most patient fan base in the history of modern music; and then, out-of-the-blue, the band flippantly announce over Facebook that the new album is ready to order via their website. Now, MBV inspire a very particular type of diehard fan, the kind of dude that knows the exact combination of effect pedals used on the band’s whole back catalogue and is more than willing to share this information with you on Youtube. So, when the much anticipated album came to their attention, they flooded MBV’s website in their thousands causing it to crash until the very early hours of the morning – cue the tears.
Soon those who stayed up well past their bedtime were rewarded with the realisation that the album was not named Server Error 404, the message that the website had been displaying for several hours, but was simply called m b v. Self-titling an album this far into a band’s career suggests a certain amount of reinvention, but upon listening to the first few tracks it appeared that this was not the case. Shields’ trademark swirling, distorted guitars and angst ridden, whispered vocals still sit very much at the forefront of MBV’s essence. The understated “She Found Now” kicks off proceedings with layers of fuzzy guitars picking up right where Loveless left off. However, a third of the way through the album, “Is This and Yes”, a song more akin to Shields’ contributions to the soundtrack for Sofia Coppola’s ‘Lost in Translation’, marks more of a departure for the band, with the rest of the album following suit.
The further the listener delves into m b v, the more removed it sounds from anything Shields has written before. While the band has always been extremely loud (*insert oft-repeated story of fans loosing their hearing at live shows*) they have never come across as angry. However, the downright furious drum and guitar loops of “Nothing Is” create a glorious cacophony that prove that MBV have not mellowed with age. At points the album is more reminiscent to 1988’s Isn’t Anything in that it seems that more of an emphasis has been put on melody than timbre (“New You”, for example), but that’s not to say the textures don’t sound incredible. In particular the drums sound much more detailed (hear the rapid break beats on “Wonder 2”) and guitarist/vocalist Belinda Butcher’s soaring glissandos contrasting perfectly with fierce, tremolo-laden guitars on “Only Tomorrow”.
While Loveless was largely a mono affair, m b v takes advantage of the fact that most of us have two ears, utilising a fuller soundstage, offering a more rewarding headphone experience. However, while the 1991 masterpiece drifted ethereally from track to track lulling the listener into the beautiful soundscapes that Shields is so adept at creating, the 2013 follow-up feels more like a collection of songs than a single body of avant-garde genius. That being said, if any other artist had created m b v the album would be heralded as a magnum opus, but with My Bloody Valentine it’s just a further addition to an already outstanding musical career.
Words: Andrew Stark