My Bloody Valentine
m b v
Feb 07, 2013 Web Exclusive
When Radiohead put out The King of Limbs online with just five days' notice, Al Horner wrote an excellent blog post on how the immediacy of the release spelled impending doom for music journalism. Now, with m b v, My Bloody Valentine may have perfected the art of the unreviewable album.
Horner's argument, that reviews should be considered and informed rather than knee-jerk reactions tossed off in the name of immediacy, rings equally true with m b v as it did with The King of Limbs. But then for every shout of derision in the face of an early review comes the counter that rock music is immediate and visceral, and thus so should be our published feelings on it. Furthermore, m b v is the follow-up, 22 years in coming, to Loveless, a groundbreaking, beautiful album as revered in music critic circles as The Wire is to television and Annie Hall to cinema. How are those of us who want our critiques to be taken seriously to know where to begin?
Comparisons with Loveless are of course inevitable, in part because of the legacy of the 1991 album, but also because the first six tracks on m b v are unmistakeably of the same band. "Who sees you" and "new you" are replete with all of the shimmering, swirling density of noise that makes listening to My Bloody Valentine an exciting, physical experience. Meanwhile "is this and yes" is all silvery shards of gliding light as the synths are brought to the fore. Kevin Shields et al. have always delighted in picking gorgeous melodies from waves of seemingly overpowering noise, but you might wonder if this is quite 22 years of progress.
Then again, this is Loveless we're talking about, and saying something sounds too similar to Loveless is like telling a girl you won't date her because she looks a bit too much like Marion Cotillard. Over those 22 years countless imitators have tried to get that same sound out of their Jazzmasters to little avail, and so it would be almost churlish not to bathe in the return of this unique sound. Besides, there are subtle differences here and there; the use of more complex time signatures on songs such as "she found now" and "if i am" means that for all their beauty, the songs are noticeably less immediate than the likes of Loveless tracks "I Only Said" and "When You Sleep," and "if i am" is surprisingly groovy.
If anything, the opening two-thirds of the album are the perfect re-submergence into the band's sound before m b v takes a turn for the sublime on its final three tracks. From the moment "in another way" opens with freakishly squawking bagpipes, melody recedes from prominence to make way for punkish chaos. My Bloody Valentine's loudness is legendary, but would be nothing without the ability to viscerally thrill in the way that the furiously circling and sawing guitars on "in another way" or the proto-metal drum & bass on "nothing is" do—think Einstürzende Neubauten playing Yo La Tengo without a hint of derivativeness. There is no relenting either for the hurricane—seriously, it sounds like it's being played in a wind tunnel—of phasers and filters on the closer "wonder 2."
Twenty-two years in the making or not, this is a return that captivates, excites, and is relentless in its grab for your attention. It's the perfect comeback. (http://www.mybloodyvalentine.org)
Author rating: 9.5/10
Average reader rating: 9/10