Monday, February 11, 2013

Album Review: My Bloody Valentine - m b v

My Bloody Valentine
m b v
Rating: Woof Daddy

I guess we need to see if hell has frozen over and pigs are now flying, as the unthinkable has occurred: there is a new My Bloody Valentine record after a 22 year wait. There really is no objective way to review this album, as it comes loaded with so much backstory and history. Following the pretty much perfect record Loveless, there is absolutely no way any other music could even remotely hope to come close to it. Luckily, Kevin Shields and company realized this, and have don't what any rational band should do after creating their masterpiece, they made a record on their own terms. This is not Loveless II, nor is it a reinvention of the wheel. m b v is merely a new My Bloody Valentine record that is unmistakably them, but also has the balls to tinker with their sound in interesting new directions.

These 9 new tracks are structured into three distinct sections, each with their own touchstones to the classic MBV sound, but with each section having its own purpose and design. The album starts off almost unassumingly so, with the delicate guitar strums of "she found now," which leads perfectly out of the waning strands of noise of Loveless. It is Shields' way of saying, we can't possibly make anything that will eclipse that record, so we aren't going to try. This is it. Get used to it. After the lead track fades out under a shimmering wave of guitars, the harder edged fuzz of "only tomorrow" takes things to a higher level, drums at the forefront, vocals, while still buried in the mix, are more forceful and centered. The guitars here always seem on the verge of melting onto the floor, with Shields taking control of them just before chaos consumes them. These first two tracks are merely the appetizer for the meaty conclusion of this section, "who sees you," which combines almost backwards sounding drums with the traditional MBV guitar sound, heavy tremolo worked into a frenzy, buzzing like a thousand chainsaws.

The almost overwhelming intensity of this track gets muted by the entry into the middle section of the record. "is this and yes" was a difficult track for me to get my head around at first. It is the first MBV track to rely solely on keyboards and no drums. It is essentially a palate cleanser for the back half of the record, a lullaby before entering a more dreamlike and heavy state. "if i am" combines the buzzing guitar sound with more psychedelic flourishes, organ drones, and Bilinda Butcher's ethereal coo, and I would say is the most "pop" sounding track on the record if it wasn't for the following track, "new you," which is such a surprise, you almost have to check to make sure the same album is playing. Over a jaunty beat (for MBV), fuzz bass, and wickedly catchy guitars, this track is deceptively simple and light, but sticks in your head long after it is over because it is so unexpected and brilliant.

Most people will exclaim that the final section of the record is the more unexpected and experimental part of the record, as it moves things into a decidedly more electronic and dance-centered direction. Even after the release of Loveless, however, Shields had often spoke of his interest in jungle and drum and bass, so the descent into this territory is hardly surprising. With that said, what Shields decides to do with those influences is far more intriguing. "in another way" buries a muddy drum and bass beat underneath increasingly fractured shards of guitar and Butcher's muted vocals.

"nothing is" is pure pummeling fury, accosting you with pounding drums and furiously repetitive swirls of buzzy guitars,

which segues perfectly into the final track "wonder 2" which takes a jungle beat through a wind tunnel of effects, adding Shields' whispered vocals, organ drones, then capping things off with chopped up guitars and samples, stirring things up into a wicked froth of noise.

Whether we have to wait another 22 years for the follow up to this record remains to be seen, however, if they take that long and return with something as good as m b v, I don't think you will find many people complaining. It is impossible to divorce any music subsequent to Loveless from that record's brilliant perfection, and I am sure there will be plenty of naysayers that will say m b v is just not good enough for My Bloody Valentine. I can understand those complaints with the record and I am sure held those viewpoints at some point in listening to the album. Somehow though, I was able to reach a point where I could listen to the record outside of its sibling's massive shadow, and listen to it for what it is, a pretty damn good record.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

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