Highly anticipated m b v suggested there’s more to come
By Max Hill
m b v, My Bloody Valentine’s first full-length release in 22 years, might never escape the gargantuan shadow cast by its enduring, influential predecessor, Loveless. Naturally, it’s impossible to review the former without mentioning the latter: countless die-hard shoegazers, PBR drinkers and record store junkies have spent decades waxing poetic over the seemingly distant possibility of Kevin Shields and company releasing an album that could match the effortless brilliance of the band’s 1991 magnum opus.
Finally, that day has come, and although m b v doesn’t quite live up to the spectacular heights of Loveless, it is a terrific record, one that pays its respects to the bare bones of the band’s previous catalogue
while pushing the boundaries of their sound into new, uncharted territory.
The album opens with “She Found Now”, a hazy makeout-mixtape ballad that coos softly from behind a curtain of waxy, nostalgic guitars. The band’s sound is immediately recognizable; Shields trusts that m b v already has its audience, and he doesn’t waste a second, immersing listeners in the dreamy soundscapes My Bloody Valentine are so known and loved for. “Only Tomorrow” and “Who Sees You” sound like Loveless tracks from the cutting room floor in the best possible sense, and the warm familiarity of co- vocalist Bilinda Butcher’s whispered alto should comfort fans weary that the band might have lost the ethereal quality which has kept their catalogue in constant rotation.
“Is This and Yes” and “If I Am” display the band’s forays into new ground: the former being an atmospheric mood piece heavily inspired by ambient and electronica, and the latter groovy and full of misplaced longing and lust. “New You”, the closest thing on the album to a potential single, reminds us of Shields’ ability to weave an intoxicating melody through a patchwork of blurred synths.
The album’s standout track, “In Another Way,” is unlike anything My Bloody Valentine has ever done: rather than openended and sprawling, the track is heavy, energetic and contained. This sound is further explored in “Nothing Is,” which is more like a military march than a pop song.
“Wonder 2”, the album’s closer, collapses in on itself in a remarkably messy, self-destructive fashion, as Shield’s experimental tendencies lead to a darker and rawer sound than any track found on 1989’s Isn’t Anything.
m b v’s gradual musical slope from the warmly familiar to the breathtakingly new showcase a band remarkably unfazed by the unbelievable hype surrounding their often-promised but rarely-believed reunion. Shields manages to both satisfy old fans and court new ones, all while reminding the musically inclined why we fell for him in the first place. While m b v only occasionally reaches the heights at which 1991’s Loveless soars unabashedly, it still feels worth the wait, not only because it proves that My Bloody Valentine are still capable of making beautiful,
meaningful art, but also because it suggests that they’re likely to make even more, and in ways we have yet to see.