For starters this week, Fuzz Records just got in the latest effort from my favorite band, My Bloody Valentine. M B V is a return to form, after a 22 year hiatus, that sounds just as fresh and new as Loveless did back in 1991.
We also have the classic Dig Me Out from riot grrl pioneers Sleater-Kinney, as well as their One Beat and All Hands on the Bad One LPs. In addition to these releases, we also have two of the best releases of this year, Monomania and Silence Yourself, back in stock.
Hit the jump to read my full review of M B V!
I promised myself that I would not make any of my reviews too wordy, pretentious, arrogant or cocky/Pitchfork sounding. I also made a promise to myself that I would not douse the review with so much fanboy partiality that nobody else would be able to comprehend what they are reading. And for the most part, I will keep it that way…after this review. That is ONLY because this is my favorite band in the world and they have had a huge impact on the way I listen to music.
I was reluctant to get into My Bloody Valentine the first time I heard about them, simply due to the name (I thought they were that terrible screamo-or whatever type of band they are- Bullet for My Valentine). It was not until a great friend of my introduced me to shoegazing through Slowdive (another favorite band of mine) that I found the source of “dreamy” music. Not since the days of Nirvana and Radiohead have I found a band from the 90’s that changed my whole perception on what music could (and should) be. Of course, me being born AFTER the magnum opus Loveless was released, I had no idea that Kevin Shields and company had essentially stopped making music. This gave me a bittersweet feeling: on one hand, it was the perfect way to end an era.
Even now, essentially no other shoegaze/dream pop act has been able to pass the legacy of Loveless (as well as their EP’s and debut masterpiece, Isn’t Anything). On the other hand, I had not been born during the plight of the shoegaze era, so I had felt like I had nothing to personally connect in a “current” sense. This was more so my parent’s band, from their generation, as opposed to a band from my generation. There are bands that have carried on the legacy in a great way (Ride, Deerhunter, The Telescopes and Spiritualized are examples). However, if you think about it in a “dreamy” sense, if Ride and Deerhunter run the dream world on the surface, then My Bloody Valentine is Dream, the Sandman himself. And just how Sandman left the Dream Realm for 70 years and came back, My Bloody Valentine has done the same…and they happen to not disappoint.
Long story short, if you hear “shoegaze” or “dream pop”, you are usually told that there is My Bloody Valentine…then everything else. While this is unfair in essence, I can understand how it is possible to look at a band this influential in such a way. Every shoegaze that has proceeded My Bloody Valentine has taken something from them, whether it is the reverb washed vocals or walls of feedback; however few have done a great job, while others merely give a ho-hum performance of dreamy melodies with no real substance to them. My Bloody Valentine seemed to have the key in order to unlock a world where sound is more important than words, letting texture become the vocals and the vocals become another instrument.
M B V shows that even after a hiatus of 22 years, that nobody has been able to push the boundaries of how the guitar could sound. I feel lucky in a way, for I have only been having my ears graced by the group for 2 years now, so I technically did not have to wait for as long some diehard fans. Shields is seen as a perfectionist, and after listening to the album, I can see why. The album starts off calmer than Loveless, as if it had a different message to convey, with the song “She Found Now”. There is no tempo change throughout the song, however it invites you back into the dream world unlike any other band could. To be honest, if you are JUST getting into My Bloody Valentine, I would start off with this album, as opposed to Loveless. It is much easier on the ears, as opposed to the crushing opening riff of “Only Shallow”.
Midway through the album, the song “If I Am” takes center stage, with a swirling whirlpool of guitar noises and washed girl vocals that only the Kevin/Bilinda combo can delicately pull off. There is also a bluesy/psychedelia guitar riff that takes center stage, backed by what sounds like a synthesizer (maybe?). Immediately afterwards, the song “New You” breaks through with a upbeat tempo and a “chugga-chugga” swirling riff. Bilinda’s vocals take center stage here, as her voice continually ascends into the heavens and then comes back down to take any other listeners that might have missed the first go around. This, for me, the highlight on the entire album. It shows a new direction in which My Bloody Valentine can accelerate.
The songs in each third of the album (I say “thirds” because the album consist of 9 songs) show the band heading in a more “dark” direction, however, not melancholy or anything of the sort. Instead, it is darker in the sense of obscuring and intensifying the mystery of sound. It was like when DJ Shadow created Endtroducing… (another favorite of mine) and how he wanted pure sonic sound to be the storyteller and the poet, letting frequencies tap into something that words cannot. One listen to songs like “is this and yes” and its space station like synthesizer effects and the follow up “if i am” show that even I as try to write this “review”, I cannot do the music justice in trying to describe its beautiful sonic texture.
The last song on the album, “Wonder 2”, has a drum ‘n bass beat carrying the song along, much different from other My Bloody Valentine songs in their catalog (even though Sir Shields has introduced a drum machine into the music before). The beat is the main focus of the song, with the rest of the instruments working with the way the beat is moving and proceeding through 5+ minutes of the track. It is a much different way to end off the album, much different from the way My Bloody Valentine has ended off albums before. However, it still ends the album on a high note.
Although I will continue to praise this band until I die, this may not be for everyone. If you are more into the conventional forms of rock ‘n roll, then this album will be VERY different for you, due to the fact that: a) it is, like other works put forth by My Bloody Valentine, loud and b) slow, obscured and requires patience. I have even read that some fans of My Bloody Valentine say that it sounds too “samey” in comparison to Loveless.
I will defend the band in saying that, while I understand their gripe, this work is from ’96 essentially, and is a continuation of where the group left then; similar to what Godspeed You! Black Emperor did last year with the great Allelujah! Don’t Bend, Ascend! (highly recommended as well). Also, if you listen closely, you could see that it is a precursor to a greater vision, like Isn’t Anything was (and still is) to Loveless. The synthesizers, drum ‘n’ bass, jungle music and Beach Boys influence and stronger (analogue only) production show that M B V is pushing My Bloody Valentine in a new and more enhanced direction. And since Shields is a perfectionist, I can only imagine (actually, I cannot) what the result of this vision is going to be. Hopefully, it will not take 22 years to release new material, but if it does, we know that the shoegaze titans will not disappoint.
– If you are a fan of My Bloody Valentine or any of the shoegaze bands they have influenced, I highly recommend this album to you. After 22 years of waiting, no other album (besides Smile via Beach Boys) can be released and still sound great. And only a band of My Bloody Valentine’s caliber can pull it off.
– If you are more into lyrical based songwriting, this may not be for you, due to the fact that their work is more soundscape and texture focused. The idea is to take other minimalist sounds and push them into unpredictable territory, as opposed to song lyrics. However, if you do want to try get into this sort of music, listen with not only an open mind, but an analytical one as well. You will find that only a band such as My Bloody Valentine can create a sound ahead of its time, take a 22 year break, return with OLD material and still have it seem as if the old material is more new, fresh and still more pioneering than most of the “new material” in music today. Confusing? I know.