Album review: My Bloody Valentine: MBV

Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine. Picture: Getty
Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine. Picture: Getty
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THEIR previous album bankrupted a record company and sounded like a revolution, confirming My Bloody Valentine as the most beguiling and influential noise band since The Velvet Underground.

My Bloody Valentine: MBV

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This very belated follow-up – released digitally last week, to be followed on CD and vinyl later this month – crashed their new website, leading fans to petition Barack Obama to fix the fault. Sod Syria and gun control, doesn’t the leader of the free world know that folks have been waiting two decades to hear this thing? Meanwhile, in less dramatic news, the creators of the website isthenewmybloody were able to redesign their title page to proclaim YES.

Like the much anticipated yet abrupt release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows and, more recently, the wholly unexpected Bowie single and album announcement, My Bloody Valentine created a global music event without giving the impression that they were trying too hard. The trying part – for MBV mainman Kevin Shields and, in a separate sense, the fans – was the 22 years it took to follow up Loveless.

As recently as two weeks ago, fans at gigs were heckling Shields for a release date. Despite his assurance when the group reformed in 2007 that “we are 100 per cent going to make another My Bloody Valentine record… unless we die or something” and the news at Christmas that the album was mastered, there was considerable scepticism that such a beast even existed.

However, there is something very appealing about the way Shields works in a vacuum – had he even noticed that two decades had gone by since his band last released any original music? Even more appealing is the secret recipe he works to. Since Loveless set the bar for experimentation with guitar sounds and production techniques, many have tried to crack the code and, at best, sounded like a pale imitation. Only My Bloody Valentine sound like My Bloody Valentine and mbv is resounding confirmation of that at the very least.

One of the biggest initial surprises about the album is quite how much it recalls their earlier work. After all this time, couldn’t they have reinvented the wheel or something? Instead, they’ve gone for time travel, transporting us back to the future via the narcotic use of tremolo to another collection of slightly discombobulated compositions, floating far from the ecstatic bludgeoning of You Made Me Realise. Even the ethereal titles – nothing is, only tomorrow, is this and yes – sound hazily familiar.

But then, this album has its foundations in recordings Shields made in the mid-1990s before the band dissolved first time round and to which he returned when they resumed work on the album a few years ago. Hence, the drum’n’bass influence you can hear at one point – the sound of the future circa 1996.

mbv starts where Loveless left off, with the warped lullaby she found now, Shields’ beseeching tone muffled by a pillow of fuzzy though increasingly urgent chords and gentle bass throb, and the heady only tomorrow, which boasts a classic, swooning MBV melody mixed prominently against the grungey distortion and what sounds like a keening harmonica. who sees you is not particularly distinguished, with its boomy drums and gurning guitars.

Just as the album threatens to fall asleep over the mixing desk, guitars are laid to one side for the gentle retro-futuristic electronica of is this and yes, with its atmospheric drones on synthesizer and vocal, and the soothing sensuality of if i am.

The appropriately named new you is the most accessible track on the album and one of the most unexpected to those whose ears have become attuned to the MBV sound palette. With its audible lyrics and practically sunny disposition, it recalls the innocent longing of their Strawberry Wine single.

But don’t release the puppies into a field of daffodils just yet, as things turn nastier and rather more exciting with the metallic screech and martial drums of in another way and the ruthlessly minimal math-punk of nothing is, which comprises two chords looped and pummelled for three-and-a-half minutes, like a needle stuck on some grungey 8-bit ejaculation. The effect is brutal, primitive, invigorating and mercifully brief. The album then roars to a conclusion with wonder 2, which is roughly the sound of a plane taking off for six minutes while you turn up your favourite drum’n’bass and dream pop albums simultaneously. The melody is almost Bacharachian; everything else is conceived to agitate and unsettle.

By the time mbv reaches this startling but not unwelcome endgame, it has led us Pied Piper-style out of the MBV comfort zone and towards a possible (dystopian) future for the band. Just don’t hold your breath for the revelation of what that will entail.