Something happened in early February that likely got many My Bloody Valentine fans cheering. The highly influential band released m b v, their first full length since Loveless: the alt rock record that set the high water mark for shoegaze the same year Nevermind’s baby went for a swim (1991!). And, while I’d like to say I’ve been waiting for this album since I was three years old, I have to admit that I’m one of My Bloody Valentine’s most spoiled fans – I only discovered them after a friend directed me to this long-awaited gem. Despite my youthful inexperience, listening to both Loveless and m b v for the first time (and at the same time) has been, for lack of a better word, a real ear-opener. Here’s my comparison of Bloody old and Bloody new.
While m b v delivers much of the dense layers, sonic waves, guitar wails and pitch bends that make Loveless an ageless rock artifact, it is not without its surprises. “She Found Now” and “Only Tomorrow” open the album with plenty of rumble and fuzz typical of MBV, but with crunchier, more abrasive tones. Front man Kevin Shields has the magic touch when it comes to producing, even though his process could destroy a person’s patience more than Chinese Democracy. Both Shields and Bilinda Butcher’s whispered vocals sink below crashing waves of guitar without ever being drowned, surfacing every so often to deliver a melodic hook. Just like Loveless, the vocals in m b v are treated like any other instrument, making the mix sound like distinct parts and one organic mass all at the same time. It’s also proof that vocals can sometimes be better felt through surprising melodies than intelligible lyrics. One exception is m b v’s “New You,” the album’s catchiest and most accessible track that lets Butcher’s airy vocals fly over tremolo flutters and a fuzzed-out bass heartbeat. The atypical songs, like the organ-dominated “Is This And Yes” and the two-second loop of “Nothing Is,” I’m undecided on. Still, even the weakest new MBV song is a strong argument for the electric guitar’s relevance in a synth-saturated landscape. (Sire/Creation, mybloodyvalentine.org) Matthew Dyck