My Bloody Valentine's triumphant return to shoegaze with 'MBV'
Thanks to the the rise of Internet culture and the overwhelming accessibility of music online, unifying musical events are rare.
Everyone is listening to different things, and unless you’ve got a major crossover artist like Taylor Swift or Kanye West to bridge the gap between young and old or cool and mainstream, chances are the Internet won’t crash due to insane demand for a record. As musical revolutionaries are wont to do, however, shoegaze master My Bloody Valentine changed all that last weekend, as its website crashed soon after the online release of its first album in 22 years.
True, we’re not going to be hearing three-and-a-half minutes of white noise-laden “Nothing Is” on the radio anytime soon, amazing as the track is in its uncanny ability to make chaos sound melodic. Still, the release of m b v is a momentous occasion for anyone with a cursory knowledge of the best albums of the 1990s.
The album somehow lives up to its creators’ looming legacy and continues My Bloody Valentine and mastermind Kevin Shields’ impeccable streak of boundary-defining releases that began with 1988’s You Made Me Realise EP.
Alleviating fan concerns that My Bloody Valentine would radically reinvent its tried-and-true sound, the first three tracks of m b v feature a welcome return of the fuzzy guitars of Loveless. The charisma of a track like “She Found Now” or the considerably heavier “Who Sees You” adds little to what Shields perfected in earlier work, but is still a nice reminder that no one rips off Loveless quite like its creators do.
Early highlight “Only Tomorrow” mixes a loping time signature with one of the best guitar solo moments in its catalogue, as the song’s final two minutes are dedicated to repeating majestic melodies. Only with fourth track “Is This and Yes” does My Bloody Valentine start departing from the sound that made it famous, but, unsurprisingly, Shields and his bandmates still deliver on all counts.
Wielding organs in the same way they wield guitars, “Is This and Yes” is an off-putting track on first listen, however, its placement in the album serves nicely as a transition to the more electronically inspired music in the record’s second half.
In the seemingly endless string of interviews Shields gave about the new album before its release, he consistently emphasized the influence of jungle music, drum ‘n’ bass and other IDM stylings on his songwriting.
Tracks like “New You” and “In Another Way” showcase exactly what Shields meant, combining his mad mind with the methodology of electronic production. It turns out to be a great match, and the second half of the record ultimately succeeds in providing fans with the musical progression they’ve desired from the band ever since it essentially beat the shoegaze genre back in 1991.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the final track “Wonder 2,” a song as mysterious and strange as its name implies. During the song, Shields and band members unleash one of the most violent and unhinged guitar attacks of their careers, while never losing the sense of control that makes their records shine.
It’s always difficult to tell whether an album will end up a classic, but m b v reminds fans of the band’s legacy as well as gives them something new. In the end, this is all we could have wanted. Welcome back, My Bloody Valentine.