In 1991, the angst-ridden, flannel wearing grunge kids — Generation X — had Loveless, My Bloody Valentine’s universally-acclaimed sophomore album. In 2013, their children, the angst-ridden, flannel wearing hipsters — Generation Y — have mbv, the long-anticipated follow-up.
For over 21 years, fans of the band have waited patiently for Loveless’ successor, each year bringing more anticipation for some, and doubt to others. Kevin Shields, the brain-trust of the band’s swirling, ether-drenched sound, has spoken of the album sporadically for two decades, reassuring the public that the album will come out “unless [he] dies”.
Between Loveless and today, the entire landscape of music has changed. Guitar and drum based rock music has been shifted onto the back burner, giving way to the polished, glitzy, auto-tuned pop music that dominates the airwaves, album sales, and chart positions. Many of My Bloody Valentine’s contemporaries have hung their guitars up, exiled from the music industry by changing attitudes of listeners and industry executives. In many ways, music needed a hero, someone to swoop in and show the disillusioned, panicked music populous that there is an alternative to the facetious droll they’re forced to endure. Kevin Shields is that hero, and like a thunderstorm on the Texas plains, he has made his presence known.
The simply-titled mbv begins exactly where Loveless left off with “She Found Now”, continuing the mercurial textures and sonic ambiance with which My Bloody Valentine has become synonymous. The first third of the nine-track LP invokes the spirit of Loveless, creating a modern-psychedelic, dissociative atmosphere of tremolo-rich guitars, thin, off-time percussion, and androgynous vocals. From the siren-like swells in “Only Tomorrow” to the atmospheric flange of “Who Sees You”, mbv bridges the twenty-one year gap with effortless brilliance, further cementing the band’s prolific reputation.
The second act of mbv kicks off with “Is This and Yes”, the pipe organ and twinkling effects perfectly swirling around Belinda Butcher’s soft, breathy vocals, catapulting beyond the atmosphere into the chaotic beauty of the galaxy. The experience continues into “If I Am”, with Colm O’ Ciosoig’s slightly off-time drumming and the metaphysical guitar work of Shields and Butcher fluidly continuing the journey created in the previous track. “New You” descends back to Earth, fading out behind a distorted, thumping bass riff.
The home stretch squeals into “In Another Way”, opening the doors and swallowing the listener into disjointed, spacial chaos. Butcher continues her desperate vocals, seeming to chant with the flange of the band’s signature musical craft. The battering repetitiveness of “Nothing Is” swells, consuming the senses, each beat of O’Ciosoig’s snare like a medley of hammers forging hot steel, providing a powerful instrumental segue into “Wonder 2”, mbv’s schizophrenic climax, accented by the sounds of jets tearing through the sky.
My Bloody Valentine has imposed their will on the new generation of indie rock listeners in much the same way they did with their parents two decades ago. Despite the lull between releases, My Bloody Valentine has, in many ways, made the follow up to Loveless surpass it’s predecessor, taking the “magnum opus” tag that journalists gave them in 1991 and transplanting it to mbv. Kevin Shields once part of a thriving indie rock movement that included the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and Cocteau Twins, has jettisoned his awe-inspiring, unmatched signatures into a new crop of indie rock acts, positioning himself with the likes of Modest Mouse, Animal Collective, and the Arcade Fire. This shouldn’t even be in the least bit shocking though, since the band’s influence has been seen in countless acts since the mid-1990’s, from the Smashing Pumpkins to Radiohead to Sigur Ros, Mew, and even newer acts like Silversun Pickups, Coheed and Cambria, and Kill Hannah.
Loveless has been considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time, and with good reason. Needless to say, when mbv consumes the minds of the music population, it too will be hailed in the same manner, which isn’t bad, considering it took two decades to be unleashed upon the world. In an age where long-anticipated follow-up albums burn asunder like Chinese Democracy, My Bloody Valentine delivered an experience worth the wait, and by years end, an experience that will be debated as the album of the year.
My Bloody Valentine’s mbv is currently available for download on their website (www.mybloodyvalentine.org) and will be receiving a full spectrum release on February 22nd.
Overall Rating: 10/10