This didn’t actually happen, did it? For months, My Bloody Valentine frontman Kevin Shields had been nebulously hinting at a long-awaited follow-up to their classic 1991 LP Loveless. But he also said in 1997 that he’d be “dead” if he didn’t release a new album that year.
Well, 1997 came and went. And so did 1998, 1999 … until here we are in 2013. But then, two Saturdays ago, the distant and surely hopeless possibility of another My Bloody Valentine record became a reality when they posted on their Facebook, “We are preparing to go live with the new album/website this evening.” What better way to announce your passage from the ’90s to the present day than through a Facebook post? That night, after recovering from a devoted fan base crashing their website, m b v was up and ready for download.
Why did m b v take so long? It’s been said that Shields is somewhat of a perfectionist, that he is to the point of completely doing away with full, unreleased albums. Shields’ obsession with getting things just right is both a blessing and a curse — it took him 22 years to finally treat us to m b v, but he’s got a lot to show for it; m b v is a triumph.
As you delve into the album, you enter into another, much different state of consciousness. It’s as if you’re lilting over waves of distorted guitars and dissonant keyboards, as sweet vocal melodies subtly peek out from under the surface. The slightest wobble in the guitars heightens the sensation, almost like a massage does. “Who Sees You” defines this feeling, drawing you in and hypnotizing you into a stupor that is both numbing and heavenly. Sounds like a drug? Well, m b v is a drug well worth the addiction.
This is purely a sonic experience. Lyrics are of secondary importance to the band. However, despite the barely decipherable words that are buried underneath the wall of sound, m b v has a lot to say. After the first three tracks put you in a daze, “Is This and Yes” is the sound of slowly recovering consciousness. “New You,” a track that could easily be a Radiohead cut from The Bends, wakes you up and emanates a hopefulness not seen in most My Bloody Valentine songs. Then, the last third of the album completely changes the delirious mood from before, ending as if in a jet engine, loudly pounding at you until the very end.
There was a very real possibility that we could be sitting here with a colossal disappointment on our hands. Luckily, two factors precluded that situation from happening. First off, the album’s surprise release, devoid of any warning or fanfare, sprung up on us, leaving us no time to build up lofty expectations and wait for those expectations to surely be dashed. But secondly, m b v is just plain good. Granted, it is not as good as Loveless, but the proposition of My Bloody Valentine (or anyone) topping Loveless is nothing short of impossible. Ultimately, m b v is everything we could have hoped for — exhilarating but bleary-eyed, gorgeous but hazy, and, most importantly, long-awaited but exceptional.
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