Posted March 20, 2013
By NANCY CERMENO
To those unfamiliar with the “shoegaze” genre My Bloody Valentine’s new album “M B V” may be disorienting at first.
But My Bloody Valentine is a band known for changing the way people listen to music. Those willing to pay attention will find something to love from this album, which took 22 years to be released.
Two tremulous rhythm guitars merge into one “wall of sound” with little to no pause. Lyrics are at times unrecognizable emphasizing the human voice as a background instrument. The drums and bass are also somewhat muted by the guitars.
The genre emerged in the mid to late 1980s in the United Kingdom. The term comes from the performing guitarists, who would stare at their effect pedals while performing in deep concentration.
The band’s first album “Isn’t Anything” is said to have changed the English indie-scene in 1988 with its heavy yet hypnotic sound. The band consisted of Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher on guitar and vocals; Debbie Googe on bass, and Colm O’Ciosoig behind the drums. Other bands like Ride and Slowdive are known for being influenced by the release.
My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” took two years to make and was released in 1991. It did not have immediate commercial success despite its lauded reception. However, future generations rediscovered its brilliance and waited, with little hope, for the release of a rumored third album recording.
In 1992 a third My Bloody Valentine album was commissioned by a newly signed contract with Island Records, but the album had never come into fruition due to technical problem in the studio and the band unraveling. The band was rumored to have recorded at least an album’s worth of music that had been shelved.
After a reunion in 2007, Shields confirmed to The Daily Swarm that a new My Bloody Valentine Album was in the works.
“We were making a record in the 90s, around when the band broke up in 1995…and I continued with Belinda. We kinda made most of an album….It’s going to be this ‘96/‘97 record half-finished record finished, and then a compilation of stuff we did before that in 1993–94, and a little bit of new stuff.”
On Feb. 2, 2013, “M B V” was finally released on the band’s website. The announcement came out of nowhere on the band’s Facebook page and the website was reported to have crashed within minutes because of high web traffic.
“M B V” asks for the listener to be engaged with the dissonant sounds of a tremulous electric guitar juxtaposed with ethereal and androgynous vocals. Like the performers, the music is introverted. It is not the kind of music you listen to at a party with friends. It is more of a personal and visceral experience with the music. The experience of listening to “M B V” is more of a perception of the mind than of the senses.
The album in its entirety is experienced like a movie or play, following the three-act structure of a character arc.
The first song “She Found Now” is the set-up. This is My Bloody Valentine, as the fans know it, a circular and distorted rhythm guitar with incomprehensibly soothing vocals. Then in “Only Tomorrow” we have the inciting incident. A promise that the music is changing, and that it will not go back to sounding like previous albums. It is exciting and pushes us forward into the ride.
With “Who Sees You,” we move into act two. It is a soothing lull until the end when we feel the action begin to rise and we are hooked. The layers of guitar sounds are profound in their details and technicality and suddenly it ends. “Is This And Yes” then takes a different turn being an instrumental piece with an organ and the vocals of Belinda Butcher being used as an intricate and subtle harmony.
“If I Am” starts with drums then we hear the circular guitar distortion rhythm again and Shields and Butcher singing together.
The album is best listened to in its entirety. There is no break out single, although if there were one it would be “New You.” A wonderfully nostalgic song for 1990s music lovers, but it stands alone, like the album, as something fresh and new.
“New You” is the act two turning point. We know now how much the band has changed. In “New You” the melodic vocals and drums move to the foreground, unheard of before, and make it a song that can be appreciated to those not used to the shoegazer genre.
“In Another Way” we hear the climax. This is the final battle, with lead vocals by Butcher and a strong drum pattern. Throughout the song it jumps from harmony and melody to noise. The droning sound of the guitar, the only constant, is what keeps us from getting lost in the noise.
Then another instrumental comes at us with great force and steadily increasing volume. With “Nothing Is” we know the album is near the end and we feel the music has taken us on a journey. This is the last ride before the resolution.
“Wonder 2” starts with what I can only describe as the sound of a plane falling from the sky. It is not a happy ending. It is like “Thelma and Louise.” The drums and vocals are once again subdued as the band heads to another realm. It is utterly restless in its noise but the soothing vocals make it feel like more than just shock. Like in “Thelma and Louise,” despite their fatal end, you are somehow happy amid all the chaos.
There is a thin wire between genius and madness. “M B V” balances on that wire with great effort. This kind of polarity in the sounds and in the feelings of the listener has much been missed, and no one has done it better than My Bloody Valentine. It was worth the wait.
- Artist: My Bloody Valentine
- Label: Self-released
- Release Date: February 2013
- Price: Digital $16, CD + Digital $22, Vinyl (100 percent analog) CD and Digital $31
- Reviewer Rating: Digital recording 4.5 out of 5. (assume the analog recording is better)