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On February 2nd, music fanatics around the world brought their Saturday nights to a screeching halt when the legendary shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine announced they were releasing their follow up to their 1991 album Loveless that very night. Band leader Kevin Shields has been teasing at the album for decades, and it got the point where a third My Bloody Valentine album became an inside joke with the alternative rock crowd; “new My Bloody Valentine album” became tantamount to “it will never happen.” Loveless has since become a bona fide masterpiece of music, generally considered to me among the greatest albums of all time. Loveless has a certain mystique to it that makes it exists outside the concept of time, it is an album so truly unique that it exists separately from the context surrounding it. Because of this, a follow up record seemed more unlikely than the release of other mystical creatures of music such as The Beach Boys’ Smile, but we all saw how that played out.
There was something strangely poetic about the repeated “403 Access Denied” messages that everyone struggled with when first trying to download m b v from the My Bloody Valentine website, as if the universe wouldn’t allow anyone’s ears to experience the tracks that Kevin Shields has spent 22 intimate years with. He spent those 22 years abusing, torturing, and manipulating the songs until they developed Stockholm syndrome, they had an allegiance and an attachment to Shields, and when he wanted to set them free into the world, they weren’t ready. Eventually, the songs made their way into my iTunes library as we stared at each other timidly, both apprehensive and unsure if we were ready.
The first chords strummed of opening track “She Found Now” are overwhelming, and is immediately entrancing. It sticks to the same signature My Bloody Valentine style developed in Loveless, a style that clearly needs no altering. There is two ways to listen to m b v, examining all of the details and intricacies that make the work as a singular unit, or to just float down stream with your eyes closed, unconcerned with all the detail, but reaping all its benefits. As tempting as it is to indulge in the latter, it would be unfair to Shields’ 20 plus years of work. Close listening to “She Found Now” proves to be a rewarding and stimulating experience. With a myriad of atmospheric and dissonant guitars droning over a steady bass kick that eventually aligns its self with your heartbeat, Shields’ creates a track that is both intimate and alien, like a UFO floating around in the space between the speakers and your ears.
“Only Tomorrow”, featuring Bilinda Butcher back on vocals is a standout track of the album that is the most instantly accessible. With a dancey drum beat backing Shields’ usual, unusual guitar buzzing and wailing all about. As experimental and untraditional the track is, it has a pop appeal and is both challenging and inviting. m b v explores new terrain just as much as it revisits the old. Songs like “Is This and Yes” and “Nothing Is” come off as unclassifiable, with the first consisting of a captivating church organ, distant and subtle percussion, and Butcher’s airy vocals creating a sense of floating aimlessly, and the latter relentlessly repeating a brutal guitar phrase, creating a tension and anxiety that is never relinquished. It is the sonic equivalent of staring at a picture on a computer screen puzzled, wondering “is it moving?”
Songs like “If I Am” and “New You” capture the same twisted and foreign beauty that Loveless has been supplying endlessly for 22 years, but without sounding at all familiar or recycled. “ Wonder 2” and “In Another Way” offer up mind blending and unsettling noises that seem almost physically impossible. Shields has crafted a collection of songs and sounds that have always existed deep in the crevices of the mind, but never manifested themselves in physical form, creating a sense of comfort with the music despite how cacophonous and intimidating it may seem.
My Bloody Valentine has, incredibly, created another collection of songs that are incomparable to any music of any period. m b v is imaginative, bizarre, awe inspiring, and even inspirational; it is 46 minutes of sonic transcendentalism. There is so much depth and detail in m b v that is sure to keep fans endlessly entertained, but check back up on us in 22 years.