Review (volume one) My Bloody Valentine – MBV

MBV

My Bloody Valentine.  Where to start?  Randomly I chanced across their Facebook post saying the new album would be available on their website today.  New album?  My Bloody Valentine?  Surely Kevin Shields is fucking with us, right?
 
Apparently not.
 
The new My Bloody Valentine album, ‘MBV’, is everything you’d expect it to be.  If you loved Loveless, you’ll find more of the same here.  Woozy vocal and guitar textures, buried drums (though not as buried as Loveless) and searing noise.  Well, for the first three tracks, anyway…
 
Here’s my track-by-track rundown of this nine song suite:
 
Opener ‘She Found You’ picks up right where Loveless left off.  It’s the one ‘Holy Fuck’ moment on the album, and for 5 minutes, My Bloody Valentine has delivered on all the hype and expectation heaped on them.  A beautiful, woozy, shimmering guitar chimes over mountains of delayed fuzz as Kevin Shields sings almost inaudibly from within the maelstrom.  It’s a truly beautiful soundscape.
 
The beginning of second song ‘Only Tomorrow’ could belong to Isn’t Anything.  The guitar is brutal but tempered, but after a couple of minutes the song opens out into what sounds like MBV’s version of trip-hop.  It’s all a bit Mazzy Star, and very, very easy to get lost in; its long instrumental passages could send you off to sleep. I mean that in a good way.
 
‘Who Sees You’ begins with more fuzzy vibrato sweeps and Ride-esq drumming.  It sits alongside ‘She Found Now’ as being very ‘Loveless’ sounding.  The guitar outro is as cutting as anything they’ve done before.  Interestingly though, just when I think there might be a fade out beginning, the track come to an abrupt halt.
 
The organ intro to ‘Is This And Yes’ is interesting, and hints at taking the band in a new direction, but unfortunately the track doesn’t seem to develop sonically over its 5 minute course.  This is probably the first My Bloody Valentine song I’ve heard that I could easily hit the skip button on.
 
The next track, ‘If I Am’, is a welcome reprieve from ‘Is This And Yes’s meandering organ drone.  The guitars are very cleaned up, and a wah pedal is given a solid workout throughout the track.
 
‘New You’ begins with a beautifully fuzzy bass groove and a persistent tambourine, while Bilinda Butcher’s sighing vocals sit high above the woozy guitar.  The mix is strangely ‘normal’ (for My Bloody Valentine) making it almost sound like a radio remix of something much denser.  This isn’t a criticism, it’s just another unexpected detour on an album full of them.
 
‘In Another Way’ begins promisingly, with layers of guitar noise and frenetic, though repetitive drumming all over the track.  As the song develops however, it confirms the band’s unhealthy love affair with keyboards has risen to new heights.  Around 3 minutes in the swaths of guitars give way to an annoyingly fake string section for the remainder of the track.  If ‘In Another Way’ finished at the 3:15 mark it would have been a My Bloody Valentine classic.
 
‘Nothing Is’ is 3 and a half minutes of the one repetitive, delay drenched riff, gradually building in volume until it crumples under its own weight at the end.  It sounds great for around a minute, but it quickly becomes apparent that this is filler to make an 8-track album a 9 track album.
 
The final track, ‘Wonder 2’, is drenched in flanged guitar and its odd chord sequence is refreshing at the end of this set of songs.  It’s feels like a strange choice to end the record on, but not much about this journey has been what I’d expected.
 
The album’s lyrics were impossible to decipher in the 2 listens I gave the record while writing this piece, but they were never about the words anyway, it was the soundscapes I fell in love with on Isn’t Anything and Loveless.  That’s for someone else to delve into later, though I have to wonder how ‘MBV’ was the best album title they could come up with after all these years.  Musically, MBV is a fascinating listen after such a long silence from the band.  Its arc begins at Loveless and gradually moves into more eclectic territory, while the production appears to become less extreme over the course of the record.
 
Overall, MBV never reaches the heights of Loveless or Isn’t Anything, but hearing anything new from them after so long is a joy in itself.  The first 3 tracks are brilliant, but the middle section of the album feels meandering and laboured, with only a few shining lights before the end.  Let’s hope this is My Bloody Valentine blowing out the cobwebs and the next album isn’t quite as far away as MBV.
 
As a side note, I still eagerly await my vinyl copy in the hopes it will reveal textures and nuances I’ve missed in the digital download.
 
Rating: 6.5 fuzz boxes out of 10.

By Clint Morrow

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