My Bloody Valentine Makes a V-Day Return

my-bloody-valentineI don’t think a single album released this decade will have had more weight hanging over it than m b v, the long, long, LONG awaited new album by Irish indie rockers My Bloody Valentine. Now, you might be asking yourself, “My Bloody who?” or “I hated that movie,” but stick with me here, as it’s quite an interesting journey.

Before m b v, the world had not seen a new album from the group since 1991. Yes, as in 22 years ago, before some of you reading were even born or just barely in diapers. And let’s just say that this album, the magnum opus known as Loveless, is, to this day, regularly considered a masterpiece of such unique and groundbreaking quality that it single-handedly defined an en­tire genre known as “shoegaze.” Now, after 22 years of break-ups, reunions and near total si­lence save for a few dispersed hints and rumors, a follow up is abruptly released almost out of thin air. No pressure, right?

Living up to those expecta­tions is just about impossible, and the fact that Kevin Shields, the group’s guitarist and driv­ing creative force, even had the guts to finally put out an album after keeping fans in the dark for so long seems almost insane. In the past few months that the finished product was teased, fan reactions were everywhere. Could this be the greatest album of our generation, a catastroph­ic disaster or simply a sick prac­tical joke played on unsuspect­ing fans?

These expectations even made me nervous before I first listened to the album, but as the next 45 minutes of harrowing guitars and gorgeous melodies washed over me, my fears were quickly vanquished. It may be hard to judge how it lived up to its predecessor, but discounting all of the needless hype and ex­pectations, m b v stands out as simply a beautiful, strange and outstanding record that could have come from no other band.

It’s essential to point out that m b v is undoubtedly a My Bloody Valentine record, and is heav­ily indebted to the sound they perfected on Loveless. If you’re new to the group or the shoe­gaze genre in general, picture this: walls and walls of guitars, sounding as if their plugged into jet engines, playing dreamy, dis­torted pop melodies as ethereal, disembodied vocals drift in and out. It’s a blend of beauty and chaos that the group previously mastered on Loveless, and, on m b v, they attempt to push even further.

This established sound may make it seem like the group is a one trick pony, but, as m b v goes to prove, the band manage to twist and contort their sound into a variety of different state­ments, all while still being un­doubtedly them.

The album is split into nine expansive tracks and, interest­ingly enough, the songs feel al­most perfectly linked together in groups of threes, with each group accomplishing something different. The first three, for instance, are the most familiar feeling of the bunch, but still of­fer a fresh and exhilarating start to the album.

Opener “She Found Now,” with its slow-motion, rumbling wall of feedback and breathy whispers, slowly encompasses the listeners environment with an aural, ambient glow that you almost wish would last for hours. The following two tracks, the chunky “Only Tomorrow” and the gargantuan “Who Sees You,” offer a grittier, post-punk inspired take on their sound. Though these tracks are the most Loveless-y of the bunch, their glittered ferocity still sounds as fresh and unique by today’s stan­dards as they would have back in 1991.

The next three tracks, “Is This and Yes,” “If I Am,” and “New You,” are some of the calmest and prettiest sounding tracks that My Bloody Valentine have ever produced. “Is This and Yes” even dares to forego the serrated guitars for organs and synths, backed by nothing other than an almost subliminal drum line and the sweet, serene vocals of Bilin­da Butcher to float along with it.

But if these three tracks glow with a cool bluish hue, the final three furiously burn fiery red, as these songs are easily three of My Bloody Valentine’s most confrontational and challeng­ing. The first 30 seconds of “In Another Way,” with its jarring squeals, manic drums and short-circuited guitar noise, sounds like the musical approxima­tion of a heart attack, while the droning “Nothing Is” feels al­most hypnotic with its swirling, repetitive drum and guitar pat­terns.

It is “Wonder 2,” however, that really pushes things over the edge. Through six min­utes of panic-fraught euphoria, Shields’ guitar takes on a near unrecognizable form of chaos, resembling a Boeing 747 spin­ning out of control over what sounds like a fast-forwarded dance beat. It’s completely bi­zarre and sounds almost inhu­man, and it offers clear evi­dence that My Bloody Valentine weren’t satisfied with just re­peating their past successes.

Although I encourage every­one to give m b v a shot, I do have two stipulations: 1) Listen to the whole thing from front to back, and 2) Listen to it LOUD. The songs themselves are beau­tiful and terrifying in their own right, but when blasted at full volume as one enormous piece, the experience feels almost transcendental, as Shields’ gui­tar rips and splinters the walls around you and lifts you up into a euphoric state. It’s a truly wild experience that few artists could match, let alone after 22 years of retirement.

It’s hard to tell if m b v would, or could even go toe to toe with its legendary predecessor, but in its own right, it’s clear that My Bloody Valentine have cre­ated something truly special. Though I wouldn’t say the al­bum is for everyone, just go into it knowing this is something unlike anything you’ve ever ex­perienced musically.

IMAGE TAKEN from post.ryanoshea.com