My Bloody FUCKING Valentine, “MBV”

Band: My Bloody Valentine
Album: MBV
Grade: 9.5/10 

With Valentines Day just around the corner and a new My Bloody Valentine LP in my hands for the past week or so it was only appropriate.

Kevin Shields is God to hipsters.

Loveless is his crowning achievement. A guitar album that created effects that pushed sound to unseen heights. In a world where originality is praised, Loveless has been the catalyst for copycat impressionists. It  created a movement of shoegazers and dream poppers and lo-fi addicts and post-punkers that only wanted to be half of what My Bloody Valentine is. To the point where in today’s indie, MBVs influence may be second only to The Smiths.

Few shoegaze albums have even compared and ALL are put under the microscope to be Loveless. If you check your Amazon or pitchfork or brooklynvegan, lazy journalism has promoted Loveless as a buzzword over a standard or an individual album. 

There’s a Loveless influence here

They have a My Bloody Valentine vibe

The tremolo guitars reek of Loveless 

A lot of the praise and copycats are warranted. Loveless is a fantastic record. One of depth and juxtaposition. One that permeates the need to be so heavy, yet so soft & in love. The fusion isn’t cheap, but blended, giving this sense of warmth and unpredictability all at the same time. The vocals compliment/add to the music rather than stand on their own, making lyrics almost irrelevant. Loveless was a feeling, and guitarist/vocalist Kevin Shields was the mastermind.

Shields insanity during the making of Loveless is the word of legend. Meticulous attention to detail and the strive for perfection skyrocketed the budget for Loveless and fueled the 22 year hiatus that separated further releases. With Loveless,  Shields’ story has become just as popular as the music. With Loveless, the Shields’ tale of perfectionism to the point of manic depression is mythical in being. So much so that it’s created the story that is My Bloody Valentine.

The story is about 50% of My Bloody Valentine’s mystery. Will they ever follow up? Can they? Should they? With a catalog that includes a top 5 album from the 90s and a classic 80s release (among a bunch of great EPs) MBV has done enough to maintain a legacy of rock star legend. That’s something that some of the greatest performing artists never lived to see.

When Shields announced in late December that their third release, “MBV,” would be coming in the next few weeks…and a month later that it would be coming in the next few days I freaked. Like most fans there’s still some glimmer of hope, but the reality that we’ve heard this all before dominates optimism. It took Shields years to re-master MBV’s back catalog when they were “ready to be released.” When it comes to accurate timetables he’s about as reliable as a broken watch.

Inevitably Shields delivered. “MBV,” the third release from My Bloody Valentine is a return to form for the indie Gods. The album begins almost exactly where “Soon,” left off setting itself up as an album of acts. At 9 tracks and about 46 minutes long, every set of 3 songs acts as a chapter giving fans the MBV they’ve heard before, the stuff they haven’t, and what’s next.

If Loveless was about emotion and love, opener “She Found Now,” describes “MBV,” in its truest form: as the frosty record by the lake. It’s that just barely warm enough to be near the lake record in the dead of late September. There’s warmth and comfort here. A sense that I’ve been here before and here has been with me. It knows me and I know it. And we trust one another. But how much trust can you put in a place to which you have no ownership? Probably not much, but this conundrum is what Shields is so good at portraying.

“She Found Now,” progresses with a pulsating and subtle electric guitar riff and an overbearing level of white noise. It’s dreamy and welcoming pulse sets the mood for an album that will eventually take off into the dead of winter, where mucus dribbles and frost bite inches in all the wrong places.

It’s followed by two guitar tracks that stylistically mirror the Loveless sound. “Only Tomorrow,” and “Who Sees You,” familiarly mix tremolo guitars, white noise and instant melodies to both Bilinda Butcher and Shields’ vocals while maintaining the feeling indebted in “She Founds Now.” “Who Sees You,” in particular really gets me going when the guitar of the last 3 minutes turns into an underwater horn in distress.

It’s the type of thing that can give a music fan the shivers, goosebumps and even tears. We’ve waited for this forever and for Shields’ to deliver on such a magnified level is astounding. 22 years in the making, on and off and probably more off than on, a song like “Who Sees You,” makes the wait so worth it.

The record moves to an awkward period and likely the weakest section of the album. “Is This & Yes,” is a transitional record that moves through organs. It’s the only song on the LP I dislike as it never really goes anywhere or does anything. There’s very little to latch on to and in reality it may expose Shields’ and co. for what they are without guitars. Not very much.

The next two songs (“If I Am,” and “New You,”) are dream pop records with Butcher on vocals. Nothing to wow you here, but there’s more warmth on these records to continue the vibe established within the first song. They’re easy records to like and the most accessible on the album. Guitars are smooth and white noise is minimal as the guitar/bass combo swoons in and out of consciousness throughout both.

For Butcher, these records fit like a glove and though many have complained that “New You,” is almost too clean to be an MBV record I think it’s a nice contrast to the rest of the album. If the record is progressive in nature, and I believe it is, (it’s almost like moving from September to the dead of winter to be blunt about it) “New You,” is the eye of the storm. It’s a swan song for the warmth the first five songs laid, but is followed by an experimental and exceptionally loud final three songs.

Following “New You,” is the beginning of the final act. “In Another Way,” certainly maintains the stylistic contributions of the first few songs and could have easily fit on Loveless but there’s something different here. The record is closer to “Soon,” (the record many look at as the song to push MBV further on Loveless) than anything else.

The same effects are in place here, but there’s two guitars at work almost inter-tangling with one another. The first and loudest is heavy and sharp, but there’s still this light and smooth second guitar that acts like a glimmer of a hope, so to speak. Even when the song punches it maintains precision, easily socking you in the eye when it plans to. Clearly, Shields has full control of what he wants to do.

On the flip side,”Nothing Is,” is wildly punching without a care in the world. It’s the stark contrast of “New You,” in accessibility and “In Another Way,” in control. Synths thump and drums wreck havoc through this track with sharp guitars that could give a kid in a bubble a paper cut. This is new MBV and it’s chaotic and rough. It bears resemblance to Radiohead’s “Idioteque,” in the way it maintains the atmosphere, but Shields doesn’t need vocals to make something chaotic. Just loud synths and a jack hammer of a riff.

It’s made many wonder, even, why the album isn’t full of track like this and finale “Wonder 2,” a track that builds from “Nothing Is,” stylistically with vocals.

“Wonder 2,” takes the idea of soaring to new heights. It’s like Chapterhouse’s “Falling Down,” on performance enhancing drugs. Shields’ has created a dozen effects that have blended to one sound, emulating a plane plummeting head first to its demise. It’s chaotic in nature and has a near unbearable guitar during transitions that acts as more punch in the gut than tickling of my dick.

Yet, it’s all beautiful. When My Bloody Valentine sounds like hell, they still keep beauty as a working component because that’s what they are. It’s what no other band before or after can match or has even tried to emulate openly even if everyone secretly wishes they could.

And while “Wonder 2,” isn’t the ideal closer, it’s fitting as the finale of the third act. It maintains this triumphant feeling of possibility. How hard work pays off. As the song plummets to its finale, it recognizes there in of itself that it has no ending. 5 minutes and 52 seconds doesn’t end the record, the MBV legacy or the wait for follow ups. If the Wu-Tang is forever then so is My Bloody Valentine.

The age old question will still prevail, but I finally have an answer. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely. Undoubtedly. Fuck yes.

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About realmikeclark

23-year old Journalism & Psychology graduate of the University of Connecticut.
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