Here it is, the moment everyone has been waiting over two decades for! Entire musical genres, bands and styles have come and gone during the absence of My Bloody Valentine (jeez), and now they come back in a time where shoegaze is a long and distant memory. The one thing people talk about the most when it comes to MBV is the album Loveless, which is now hailed as a classic and a must-hear for shoegaze fans. How could they possibly live up to the expectations that were put on the follow-up? I don’t know, but I’ll get this out of the way right now: they did.
Leading up to this album there were a lot of rumors and speculation going on. Kevin Shields (lead guitars/vocals) said late last year that a new MBV album was almost finished. Then earlier this year news broke that the album had been finished and was all ready to go. Still, some time passed with no more updates on the album. MBV fans are patient – they have to be – so they put their hands on their laps and waited like good little fans. Then, suddenly, in a recent MBV performance Kevin Shields said the new album would be released in 2-3 days, which lead to a Saturday, February 2nd. They released it on their website that crashed thanks to the huge amount of people trying to access, which created a chaos that honestly isn’t too different from the style of music they make. However, eventually the smoke cleared and the album was finally available to be listened to.
As the album begins with the song “She Found Now” we are met with a near seamless continuation of Loveless. Heavy distortion, repetitive and fuzzy guitars and mellow vocals all come together in a sound we all come to expect from MBV. As the track progresses we get more and more layers of guitars plucking in harmony, creating a sort of orchestra of guitars that sends the track off into the sunset. This continues throughout the first few tracks, though like with any great MBV songs they have little touches that make them stand out. “Only Tomorrow” contains such an instance; with a sound that pops up regularly that resembles a UFO taking off. This all gives way to a gorgeous 2-minute plus instrumental that has a solid and catchy guitar riff.
What I find to be incredible about mbv is that it sounds like it could have came out in 1992. The mixing of the album and the elements that are present make it all feel like nothing has changed within the band, and that no time has passed at all. This album almost feels like a time machine; transporting everyone back to when shoegaze was at its peak. MBV did not miss a beat with this album; picking up right where they left off and executing just as well as they did over 20 years ago. That alone is a monumental accomplishment that many bands have tried and failed to achieve.
It isn’t until the fourth track “Is This and Yes” that we start to hear some interesting shifts in sound that really push the band to unexplored territories. The track is distortion and reverb free, the loudest thing being a somber keyboard that drifts in the background. There is a soft beeping sound that tiptoes between the foreground and the background while Bilinda Butcher sings very soothingly. When listening to it I couldn’t help but feel like I was lying on the grass and gazing up at the stars at night. It’s possibly the most relaxing and peaceful song the band has ever done, and “New You” continues the surprisingly clear and calm atmosphere a bit later into the album, as well. It’s hard to imagine MBV songs being peaceful, but that is exactly what comes through on a couple of these songs.
“In Another Way” is a definite highlight of the album; starting with very strange and chaotic feedback before giving away to a MASSIVE drumbeat that gives the song such an epic feel to it. Those drums never let up while Bilinda sings hauntingly in the middle of the madness. The song continues to impress when it drops to a clear instrumental section consisting of an angelic synth line and simple guitar strumming that is altogether stunning. The next track, “Nothing Is” takes the chaos from the previous track and ups the ante into an all out assault on guitar and drums. The track itself is quite repetitive; with the same guitar strumming and drumbeats throughout the entire runtime. However, the subtle shifts in instrumentation volume and placement in the soundscape are what make it mesmerizing.
None of this, however, could possibly prepare you for the albums closer, “Wonder 2”. This is the only way I can describe it, so bear with me because I’m gonna try my best (oh that’s real reassuring). A distorted airplane that swirls around you while distant then in-your-face guitar squalls and frantic and chaotic drumming hit you like a monsoon. This track completely devours you and you feel as though you are in the eye of a hurricane, though instead of screaming and crying for your sad and pathetic life you are in complete awe. It’s one of the most mind-blowingly unique listening experiences I have ever had; something that took me completely by surprise and stuck with me long after the album had finished. This is just about the best way you could possibly end an album, and thus concludes mbv on a fantastic note.
When all is said and done, the over 20 year wait for this album feels completely worth it. The album is both familiar and new; beginning as a continuation of Loveless before transforming into something else entirely. There is so much ambition on this record and it is all fully-realized and focused into an album of ear-crushing brilliance. I know it seems like nonsense to make a comparison in terms of quality to Loveless so soon, but I have no doubt in my mind that mbv is on the same level as that album. Only time will tell if I like it more or less, but the fact that I even have that indecision is a testament to the quality of the album and a testament to what a phenomenal return we got from My Bloody Valentine.
Release Date: February 2, 2013
Genres: Shoegaze, Noise Rock, Alternative Rock