When I sat listening to My Bloody Valentine's sophomore album Loveless in anticipation for their third album, I couldn't help but wonder whether or not their first album release in 22 years would reignite the flame, or blow it out. Just listening to the tranquil lyricism and sheer emotion on eighth track "Sometimes" can be enough to convert even the less opinionated of listeners. The Irish quartet managed to create the loudest and most audacious of singles to ever enter the UK singles charts with "To Here Knows When", and "Soon" shortly followed. After smashing down the F5 key in the early hours of February 3rd, finally, a glimmer of hope at the end of a 22 year long tunnel: mbv. Isn’t' Anything and Loveless were played exclusively on my music player until I had my hands on mbv, so when it came, all the excitement, all the waiting and all the conversations of 'when?' came to a holt.
Loveless opened with "Only Shallow", a loud and energetic introduction to an album that never quite quietens down. "She Found Now" opens mbv in such a spectacular fashion. Instead of the fast paced and distortion tracks, My Bloody Valentine has followed up Loveless with exactly that, Loveless. The guitars ring loud and this time the individualistic instrumentation such as the little guitar flicks are phenomenal. It cuts deep and starts mbv with such a compelling and enticing sound. Jordan added by saying: "I think I speak for everyone in that this is an album that requires a higher level of focus and commitment, not just because of its distinct and grandness in sound...but too because this is an album many a music fan - both old and new - has been longing for these past two decades." Jordan, like I and many others have been expecting this album for quite some time, so when we hear "She Found Now", it's a shock to the system. We haves grown fond of not actually expecting a third My Bloody Valentine album, and now we actually have our hands on it, mbv is surreal.
My Bloody Valentine are a band that put in 110% when they perform live, and their studio recordings are no different. "Only Tomorrow" is the fuzziest track on the album, and one of the best in my opinion. When decoding a My Bloody Valentine recording, you don't just find a guitar with distortion, you find everything. There's little aspects plastered everywhere, just like on previous album Loveless. This is why one listen cannot do My Bloody Valentine justice, because they're almost hiding aspects of brilliance which the listener later finds on repeated listens. For instance, the drumming on "Only Tomorrow" is stable and clean, unlike many of their past drumming patterns. The guitars at 2:26, the vocal by Belinda Butcher which is just as raw and layered as ever. Then you hear the killer bass riff at 3:18 followed by Butcher's vocal drone and an extra guitar to play the track out. This is repeated on the following track "Who Sees You". The percussion is instantly hooks the listener in and the guitar sounds that follow are almost other worldly. Shields creates such atmosphere with his effects and this track stands taller than the rest in the fact it's an extremely dreary and typical My Bloody Valentine with the guitar variations and Shield / Butcher vocals that we hear less than we probably should. Like "Only Tomorrow", this track utilises an extra guitar riff in the closing segments to add texture, atmosphere and sounds to an already packed shoegaze track.
"Is This and Yes" acts as a separating track. If you listen closely to mbv, you will notice the transition from different periods in My Bloody Valentine's career, and I think this is what they're trying to get across. The first three tracks are Loveless-esque, magnificent guitar layers and sweet Butcher vocals with all the simplistic but technical drumming that patches the instrumentation together and packages it for our purpose. The following five tracks on mbv tell a different story. You can hear aspects of Isn't Anything, but more importantly, you can hear their new sound which Shields has developed, and I’ll get to that later. "Is This and Yes" had ambient features and can be regarded as the "Treefingers" of mbv, it also shares a similar resemblance to Primal Scream's "Inner Flight". Experiments of sound is basically My Bloody Valentine's hidden meaning, so "Is This and Yes" is just one of the many synthetic and electronic tracks rock bands include on albums from time to time, and it works on mbv.
"While I feel the focus on vocals is lesser here - and as a result, doesn't necessarily hold as much an impact or effectiveness as the music's overall tone does - it's great to see that even after two decades, there's still the same flow and drive present as there was on Loveless," says Jordan regarding the weaker points of mbv. Butcher’s vocal on "If I Am" brings memories of the second track from Isn't Anything, "Lose My Breath". What's instantly noticeable about "If I Am" is the difference in percussion. The drums are louder, livelier and in the listeners face. Shields uses a wah-wah pedal amongst his distortion pedals to create this smooth sound. Closing the track is a 30 second electronic outro, changing the style of additional tracks within a track from the reverb heavy moments in outros on Loveless.
"New You" features a fuzzy bass and a somewhat happy vocal by Butcher. This is Jordan's favourite track and he had this to say: "One of the most surprising - but above all, incredibly fulfilling - moments when listening to mbv are the tiny pockets in Valentine's glare of sound that offer some manner of differentiation and... dare I say it, experimentation. The rhythmic dominance of "New You" and the contrast the grittiness of guitars has with the wailing melody of the track's background creates an impressive dynamic of which the track works well in holding. “In sharp contrast, "In Another Way" is my favourite track. Loud, aggressive drumming opens the track with electronic experimentation. At just 12 seconds in Shields puts all the guitar effects together to create this monstrous sound which formulates in to a rather catchy guitar riff with Butcher delivering her best ever vocal on a My Bloody Valentine track. I can't help but move along with the drumming and guitar rhythm because this is just truly brilliant. At 1:25 we hear the best moment of musical quality on mbv. What's even more extraordinary is that Shields can create these sounds using a guitar. The synthesizer in the background has been heavily effected with reverb and plays it's part in separating this track, this segment acts as the chorus. Turning down your sound system's bass will truly reveal the energetic percussion and excellent guitar sounds. The final two minutes are among the most memorable moments on mbv.
And if to say that wasn't enough, they come straight back with one of their most repetitive but commanding tracks, "Nothing Is". Seven seconds of studio silence and plugged in guitars start this track off. The listener can then hear the Boredoms-esque drumming that cuts deep into the My Bloody Valentine drumming aesthetic. Shields has looped guitars that ever so slowly increase in volume and additional distortion enters. The drumming also increases vigorously as the track moves on. After two minutes the listener will start to notice the hi-hat's in full effect, with delay heavily applied. This is the work of Shields experimenting in the studio, and I can't help but suck it up, listen loud and praise the man for creating such brilliance. Then all of a sudden, Animal Collective like electronics take over and the final track "Wonder 2" begins. Jordan says: "If the band wanted their return to end on a memorable, and lustful, high, they without question have managed that with unprecedented ease, as is the case with closer "Wonder 2's" savage, almost crazed deliverance of synthesizer drum beats and vacuuming swirls of guitar that begin fairly modest, but increasingly grow in the same manner of savageness and brutality. Like I'm being pulled back into a mid-90's Swans jam, the melody is eerily dark yet compelling in its execution. And the ferocity of the overall piece leaves me somewhat breathless, as if the very track has sucked all the air from out and around me."
February 6, 2013, several listens down the line and nine tracks later, we're at post-mbv hype and still, the praise and demand for My Bloody Valentine is as high as ever. A band that changed the world of music in the 90s have yet again showed their worth not only as a band, but as an entity and an influence to all that follow. Jordan says: "There's as much a nostalgia for the times listening to Loveless for the first time, as much there is a present-day rekindling for a love of music so raw, so blunt and provocatively emotive...it requires perhaps a scenario such as this where two writers/voices/music fans can speak and define music, alot better better than one."
This is very much a full My Bloody Valentine album as opposed to the ridiculous instigations of people saying it's pretty much just Kevin Shields. We have Belinda Butcher delivering her ooziness vocals, now in her 50s. Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig has always been alongside Shields as a key member of My Bloody Valentine, and he has shown why on mbv. As good of a bassist as Debbie Googe is, she unfortunately wasn't needed as much during the recording sessions because of Shields multi-instrumental skill. Everyone has played their part in making this album. Shields may have forgotten the countless interviews where he has promised to deliver a third My Bloody Valentine album. Now that My Bloody Valentine have delivered the goods, the one thing that's on their mind is the fans. If it wasn't for you, Jordan and I, then mbv wouldn’t have even been considered. My Bloody Valentine left their mark on the 90s with one of the best albums of all time. They left the 00s with fans demanding new material, and signs of a new album started to finally emerge when the Irish quartet reunited for the first time in 10 years. A further six years down the line and My Bloody Valentine have finally left their mark on the 10s. Although it may not be as special or ground-breaking as Loveless, mbv shows a different side of My Bloody Valentine. It's the side I’ve been waiting to hear for many years and now after 22 years, Kevin Shields and co can finally sit back, relax, and enjoy the show that is us.
~Eddie & Jordan