My Bloody Valentine - m b v
"Stormy Sound Ocean"
Sometimes it's difficult to judge whether an album is well loved by hundreds of thousands of rabid fans or is merely over-hyped. This is how I felt about My Bloody Valentine's 1991 masterpiece Loveless. Sure, it's included at the top of nearly every music critic's "best of the 90's" list, but did it have the cult following of books and movies of the time like Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Wilt Stillman's "Metropolitan"? The answer always managed to elude me, as I was born eight years after the legendary album dropped. I got my answer last Saturday night, when the seminal shoegaze trio released their follow-up to the noisy, reverbed-to-the gills Loveless.
It's important to stress the length of time, 22 years, between Loveless and the new LP, m b v, as it only adds fuel to Saturday night's fire. Rumors of an upcoming release had been floating around since about 2007, many of them started due to frontman Kevin Shields' constant insistence that newly recorded material was on its way. Even in the days leading up to its unveiling, m b v's title, cover art and even its release date were kept under wraps. Then, that Saturday, a simple facebook post set the music world ablaze. "The album is now live on www.mybloodyvalentine.org" This was the only place to purchase m b v; it wasn't available on iTunes. Unfortunately, the band's website, which seems to be as anachronistic as Loveless, couldn't handle the sudden influx of visitors, causing it to immediately crash.
The band's facebook page quickly became the equivalent of a queue of greasy-haired Star Wars fans spending the night outside a theater just to say that they were among the first to see the latest installment of the series. Barrages of angry, confused comments started to appear as the site refused to cooperate. How could Shields let this happen to his shoegazing disciples? A conspiratorial air hung over the virtual My Bloody Valentine fan convention. There was speculation that this whole event was just a cruel prank played by the band. There was even a someone who posted a youtube video of one of his band's own tracks, changing the title so that it appeared to have been a leaked song. (This counterfeit tune is actually quite good, but it seems to have been removed from youtube.) After about two hours of panic, the website resurfaced, and thousands of anxious fans were able to finally indulge in a collection of 9 tracks they never truly believed they'd hear.
I must say, I'm quite impressed. The top of the order, "She Found Now", "Only Tomorrow" and "Who Sees You", is right on par with anything My Bloody Valentine's ever composed. Each track snarls and growls with guttural distortion that chokes a foundation of guitar chords, carrying the weight of liquid pluckings and the gaseous mumblings of vocalists Shields and Belinda Butcher. The whole soupy mess dips and dives in a whirlpool of abrasive noise, not unlike an early Dinosaur Jr. track. Rhythms are minimal, drums only added as a gratuity to keep one from growing nauseous while in the stormy sound ocean. It's sickeningly beautiful. Although lighthearted 98-pound-weakling on the outside, "If I Am" makes a powerful cleanup hitter with disorienting chord changes and a Smiths-esque riff just barely peeking through the tumult.
"Is This and Yes" forms a gorgeous bridge between the two halves of the album, a sparkling organ chiming along as Butcher breathes wordless lyrics. It's melancholy, trance-inducing and a pleasant repose from the usual all-out attack on the senses the m b v usually offers. "New You" follows, drifting into pop territory, with weighty synth bass pulses and a spiraling clean guitars. There's no distortion to be found here, as the band starts to faintly resemble fellow 90s act Slowdive. Things lean toward the experimental side on the last three tracks, becoming little more than repetitive noise collages, which baffles me due to how great the rest of the albums is. Despite that, m v b will still certainly be one of the best albums of the year, and a worthy sequel to Loveless.