My Bloody Valentine’s 22-years-in-the-waiting follow-up to Loveless came out over the weekend. Like everyone else, I was checking the mbv website all day on Saturday waiting for the technical glitches that prevented the final unveiling from being released for a few hours. But I eventually got my download (with a CD on the way). Over the past few days, I’ve been listening to m b v over and over, and the thing that sticks out in my head is that it seems like exactly what it is: a follow-up to Loveless. It’s not necessarily better than that earlier album, but it seems like a logical continuation of their sound–an incremental advancement in the realm of feedback-drenched-rock.
And…that’s quite a feat. Most groups that take a long break between releases tend to lose focus, come up with something either identical to the stuff that they did before (read: a dated sound), or try to update their sound to (usually) ridiculous results. Heck, even bands that wait a few years between releases have a hard time rekindling the “magic” of the earlier stuff. The Band recorded their first two albums in relative isolation. Once people heard the stuff and they got famous, they were never the same, and their later albums (recorded months, not years, after the first) were lukewarm at best. That MBV have managed to keep that magic alive in their sound over all those years is quite an achievement, and a testament to Kevin Shields’s focus!
So I think the album is excellent, and I encourage you all to take a listen. I don’t want to do a track-by-track analysis (The Quietus already did that, so check it out). Shorthand: lots of great rock songs with a shimmery, feedback-drenched sheen with a few wrinkles thrown in. Two of those wrinkles, though, are worth some attention: “is this and yes” and “nothing is.” “is this” is MBV at its quietest, a lullaby of swirling synth noise, icicle murmurs of vocals, and that’s about it. But positioned as it is between the first few songs, which feature MBV’s trademark whirling guitar noise, it is a perfect respite, and a great song in its own right. “nothing is,” by contrast, is MBV at its most punk–a relentless, repetitive attack of bass, drum, and guitar, sped up like they’re being chased by a rabid beaver. It’s the opposite of “is this” yet these two songs reveal exactly how MBV have molded their traditional sound in new and interesting directions.
Here’s hoping fans enjoy the new work and wait, at least, a few weeks before asking Kevin Shields when the next one is due.