After 22 years, a decade-long breakup, a reunion, and a reunion tour, My Bloody Valentine has finally dropped the follow-up to their incredible 1991 sophomore release, Loveless. While titled simply mbv, the band’s third album is anything but simple. In fact, this album has more layers of grungy complexity than a freshly painted onion tossed around in the dirt. Oddly enough, I have not been biting my nails in anticipation for this album, unlike most other music junkies; especially the ones with a love for grungy, shoe-gazing noise-rock. In fact, I gave up on My Bloody Valentine many, many years ago. In fact, last Thursday I had to double-check that I even had there complete LP discography … all THREE albums. However, after revisiting their first two albums, and a couple EP’s, I admit, I was instantly disappointed in myself for not maintaining a certain amount of loyalty to the band; especially the part where I skipped out on the chance to see them on their reunion tour. My Bloody Valentine helped pioneer a sound for so many bands I loved and still love to this day, and I didn’t just put them on the back burner, I took them off the stove completely. I think my main issue was that they had such a small body of work compared to Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Pixies, etc., let alone their few predecessors. Thankfully, lead man Kevin Shields finally made good on his promise to “release an album or die”, and thus, my love for My Bloody Valentine has been not only been rejuvenated, but has increased tenfold.
Getting completely lost in music has become increasingly difficult for me lately. Maybe I’ve just become jaded or cynical, or maybe it’s just because a lot of music has become more about the instant gratification and sensationalism rather than being ambiguous and creating a longer lasting impression. My Bloody Valentine has the ability to be both at times, which is a very interesting ability to have. For instance, seconds into the opener from Loveless, “Only Shallow”, you are instantly hooked into the album. Off the bat it has an immediate draw, neurotically enthralling all senses with every instrument being over distorted and overblown, yet it still has a catchy kick drum intro and a euphoric hook that makes you feel like you could take on the world. Compare that to the melancholic, dream-like opener to mvb that sends your mind reeling into a state of pleasant nostalgia that is both intoxicatingly happy and insanely depressing simultaneously. Like remembering one of your favorite childhood friends or family members that has since passed, but then immediately realizing you will never experience a moment with that person again. This is the essence of every nostalgic moment I have experienced. From what I understand, this is also what people call “love”.
The next track “Only Tomorrow” is a quick pick-me-up; more major chords in this one, being smashed as if the guitar was being played by Donkey Kong. This is a common thing for My Bloody Valentine songs in general. Then they slowly juxtapose it with these, albeit slow developing, but incredible riffs that balance the song out perfectly. This is when the game of layers is so delicately and brilliantly played. As the album continues, it becomes a balancing act of a pleasant dream and a thrill ride, switching moods from “Who Sees You” (Thrill) to “Is This Yes” (Dream). The lead guitar in this album becomes such a major player that I believe it is more important than the vocals. I can’t tell you how lost I get in this album when it takes over.
While the first half of the album is already well above satisfactory, the last four tracks are my favorites. With “New You” we find the band slipping back into more of a pop setting. The song is slower moving while still being the bounciest, most sing-along friendly track on the album. Then, as if almost switching to a different album, “In Another Way” takes command and brings back memories of Loveless. The shrill, but heavenly sounding major guitar riff that takes over halfway through the track lifts the album to new heights, and returns the listener to the complete state of euphoria I was referring too earlier. This is bliss.
Without losing one inch of the ground gained, the last two tracks push the album to a level of energy that requires either a serious amount of Red Bull or a heavy dose of cocaine to properly get through. “Nothing Is” essentially serves as a ramp-up to the closer, but is essential to get there appropriately. It’s a repetitious and demanding crescendo that literally makes me either want to run until I pass out (which has happened before: see top comment) or beat the shit out of something. The song segues us from the rest of the album to “Wonder 2”, the closing track. A song that literally sounds like a rocket exploding into space while being guided by the most explosively vibrant ray of light that is impossible to even imagine. Luckily, we the listeners are on that rocket and the ride is most majestic; one I’ve not taken in music since Sigur Ros’ Takk….
I understand this isn’t the most accessible music out there, at least if you are unfamiliar with shoe-gazing. But I am convinced if you give this album the time it deserves, listening to it with the same ambiguity it has the ability to present itself with, you will find it has the same effect that Loveless did in 1991, and Isn’t Anything had in 1988; which is a jaw-dropping, thought/dream educing thrill ride. It takes a lot of guts to drop something like this 22 full years after your last effort, especially via your own website with no label. A massive round of applause to My Bloody Valentine for sticking to their guns and releasing a magnificent album in what I thought had been an already great year in music, although, the rest of the year seems to be waning a bit in comparison to mbv.
Can’t Miss: “In Another Way”, “Only Tomorrow” “New You”, Wonder 2″
Can’t Hit: None