England - Full Moon 202 - 02/25/13
My Bloody Valentine
m b v
When Luna Kafé editor Håvard asked me if I wanted to
write a piece on the new my bloody valentine album to break my
months-long dry spell of writing for
this zine, it was during a phase of my listening in which I felt I had
plenty to say - so I said yes. However, now that the album's been
available for a few weeks and
countless reviews have been published - many of which I've foolishly
read - I feel like the music has largely gone in one ear and out the
other, leaving me with little
to draw upon. But here goes...
As much as I enjoy Loveless, I had absolutely no expectations
about this long-delayed follow-up. Now that it's here, perhaps the best
thing about it is that
Shields might follow it with more - but in perhaps two rather than 22
years. There's plenty to enjoy here, but what's here is significantly
overshadowed by its predecessor.
While Loveless is a behemoth of a thing, resistant to dissection,
this new album can be conveniently divided into three for the sake of
analysis. The first three
tracks are distinguished by their focus on guitars, the second three by
their focus on space, and the final three by their focus on rhythm.
Led by a mighty guitar surge, the first three tracks are,
predictably, an easy way in for anyone familiar with the mbv sound. They
primarily deploy Shields' trademark
'glide' guitar in different ways. Opener "she found now" is
superficially very similar to "Sometimes", its gorgeous fuzzy thrum
paired with chiming clang and carried along
by the throb of a bass drum. "only tomorrow" has perhaps the most
obnoxious guitar sound yet heard on an MBV record - fuzz on the verge of
splattering your brain in upon
itself - until an incredibly inane lead guitar line at the song's coda
actually performs the lobotomy. "who sees you" was perhaps the first
song on the album that made
me feel like mbv's return is a good idea - an insanely warped and woozy
chord progression that's later joined by surges of heavenly overdriven
guitar. And then the song
just stops. Glorious.
The most startling moment on the album is perhaps the transition into
the second three songs, which see the introduction of a shitload of
sonic space for an mbv record.
"is this and yes" is basically just synthesizer and Belinda Butcher's
distinctive cooing. It's quite gorgeous. The wah-wah line on the
following "if i am" carves out big
gulping breaths within the vertiginous guitarscape, while "new you" has
so little guitar aside from some choppy tremolo that it almost sounds
like the heart of mbv has
been sucked out. Why they've chosen "new you" as the only song off this
record for their current live set is mind-boggling. It's a startlingly
poppy moment for the band,
and is frankly pretty lame.
The final three songs are piledrivers of insane rhythm, and act as a
massive slap across the face after the pop sorbet of "new you". The
guitars (are they guitars?)
at the start of "in another way" sound like demented bagpipes, before
the breakbeat vortex kicks off and Shields' nasty guitar buzzes around
it like an enraged hornet.
The introduction of horn-like keyboard lines in the song's second half
does little to calm the chaos. "nothing is" lives up to its nihilistic
title by serving up
three-and-a-half minutes of a pounding drum and guitar loop. Finale
"wonder 2" combines the relentlessness of the preceding two tracks into
a thrilling black hole of
clattering drums and flanging.
If this is all we get out of Shields for the next 22 years, it's OK,
I guess. However, now that the long-suffering cat is out of the bag,
fingers crossed he'll develop
the confidence to unleash another snarling batch upon us soon.
Copyright © 2013 Tim Clarke