Cook slowly and see… My Bloody Valentine returns

Apr 02, 2013 No Comments by

 SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — 2013 started off as the “year of the surprise album.” Fresh off the heels of David Bowie’s announcement in January that he would release his first album n twelve years in March, Kevin Shields, the reclusive songwriter for shoegazer pioneers My Bloody Valentine, announced at a concert in London, that his follow up to 1991’s “Loveless,” “…would be available for download in two or three days.” The announcement came as a welcome shock, not because no one knew the album was in the works, but because it was actually happening… there would be new music from My Bloody Valentine, a band that helped draw the parameters of their genre for the first time in 21 years.

“…the album settles in, and inevitably blossoms, updating the bands sonic repetoire. It expands on the dream pop elements that are prominent on “Isn’t Anything…

Founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1983 by Shields and drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig, My Bloody Valentine were joined by Belinda Butcher on guitar and vocals; and Debbie Googe on bass in 1987. The four gained attention with their pair of albums recorded for Creation Records: “Isn’t Anything,” in 1988, and “Loveless,” in 1991. “Loveless,” initially garnered favorable reviews from the press and has since become one of the most lauded and storied albums of its time. While never an overwhelming commercial success, the album became one of the cornerstones of the shoegazer scene, which garnered its name from the performers tendency to focus on their guitars and effect pedals, creating a thick wall of noise, while refraining from onstage hi-jinks and choreography. Its influence can be heard in, or has been acknowledged by the likes of Bowie, The Cure, U2, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, and Phish. They were equally influential on their contemporaries, fellow shoegazer bands like Ride, Slowdive, and Chapterhouse, who helped develop a style that continues to mark the work of Sigur Rós and Godspeed You! Black Emperor today. False starts and rumors surrounding the highly anticipated follow up to “Loveless” slipped out for years, but no new music was released, with Shields confirming in 2007 that he had scrapped over an album’s worth of new material, telling Rolling Stone it “…wasn’t as good as “Loveless.””

Shields began building the new album, “mbv,” following the bands brief reunion tour in 2008, revisiting ideas he had begun as early as 1996. The sound of “mbv” is initially not terribly removed from that of “Loveless.” But the album settles in, and inevitably blossoms, updating the bands sonic repetoire. It expands on the dream pop elements that are prominent on “Isn’t Anything” and the ambient influences and electronic experimentations prevalent on “Loveless.” While “mbv” doesn’t immediately present itself as the breakthrough masterwork its predecessor was, it succeeds by virtue of not repeating itself. It is the sound of a band pushing the boundaries of sonic exploration and pop melodies. This is what My Bloody Valentine does best.

“She Found Now,” the albums chaotic opener, begins with a sludge-like, hazy swirl of low guitar drone that would have fit perfectly alongside the bands earlier works. The intentionally unitelligible lyrics convey melancholic moods of loss and yearning. Shields pulls part of one line out of his hat, then seemingly finishes the line with part of another line. “Rain your bikes to the moon until / You hear me here / ‘Till we’ll wait and I’ll stay / Over here,” Shields sings on “Who Sees You,” while lyrically unclear, the longing on “mbv” is palpable. Individually, the lyrics come off as half-thoughts and trailing sentences, but work together to paint an emotional color, rather than any linear structure. Butcher’s voice is lilting on “Only Tomorrow,” evoking lost dreams and lullabies with her breathy, angelic voice making the listener feel calm, despite the music’s topsy-turvy snarl. The albums’ first three songs are pure fuzzed-out bliss, with loops and guitars layered on top of one another in a chaotic drone given structure by shields and Butcher’s haunting vocals.

“Is This and Yes” brings the volume back down, and is where the album opens up the electronic spectrum of the band. Butcher’s soft vocals and building synthesizers crescendo into the swirling whispered drones of “If I Am,” which give way to the dream pop groove of “New You,” the closest thing to a radio friendly pop song the band has ever turned out. “New You” bounces with melody and lightness; it’s shimmering guitars take the listener to the relief of a hypnotic dreamland.

The tempo and volume rise again on the final third of the album. The shuffling groove underneath Shields’ soaring guitar and keyboard work on “In Another Way;” the rapid-fire pounding drum and bass assault of “Nothing Is;” and the rising, cart-wheeling loops of “Wonder 2” stand alongside the band’s earlier successes, and it’s unlike anything in their catalogue. As “Wonder 2” reaches the album’s penultimate crescendo, with wave after wave of sweeping noise building with the dempo into a dense haze, “mbv” fulfills the promise of My Bloody Valentine’s glory days. With all of the rumors, hype, and expectation awaiting its release, the biggest surprise with “mbv” is that is an album of carefully crafted sounds that avoids being over-cooked, and is actually worth the long wait.

Entertainment, Music

About the author

Alan Schooling grew up in Southern California before fleeing north to escape the heat. He has been obsessed with music for the last 24 years and had seen more concerts than he can remember. He is currently a communications major at Dominican University of California who is pursuing a career in journalism.
No Responses to “Cook slowly and see… My Bloody Valentine returns”

Leave a Reply