On Saturday, every rock music aficionado with Internet access let out a yelp followed by a few uncontrollable drops of urine. My Bloody Valentine had just released an album. Titled m b v, the album is a nine-song collection 22 years in the making. It is the follow-up to the band’s 1991 classic Loveless, an album constructed of layers of throbbing, distorted guitars and quiet, obscured vocals meticulously placed atop looped drum samples to create a sound that is at once lushly ethereal and blissfully cacophonous. Loveless is so deeply wedged into the history of contemporary rock music that it stands as an emblem of My Bloody Valentine’s legacy. After years of offering playful hints of a successor, it seemed as if front man Kevin Shields was more willing to offer half-serious updates of the album’s progress than any actual music.
But it has arrived. m b v is finally here. On Saturday night, demand for the album crashed the band’s official site, but by early Sunday morning the album was proven to be real. And with a collective musical experience — the likes of which have not been seen since the release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows — avid fans rejoiced across the Internet and were greeted with an album that sounds very much like My Bloody Valentine.
m b v continues exactly where Loveless left off. What is instantly striking about the record is just how much of the band’s style is intact after a long hiatus. It’s as if My Bloody Valentine never left. But m b v doesn’t sound like a nostalgic throwback to 1991 because the band’s sound simply cannot be dated; the sound exists somewhere outside of the bounds of contemporary music production. It is a sound only attainable through several years of floating in space, reading Kierkegaard and Nietzsche and translating those experiences into music, or — in Kevin Shield’s case — being Kevin Shields.
The album opens with “She Found Now,” a viscous blend of tremolo guitars that meld with Shield’s hushed vocals to create a slow-moving wall of warmth-inducing sound. A stagnant yet ever-morphing ballad, the song perfectly encapsulates the feeling of sonic existentialism that runs throughout the album. “Only Tomorrow” — perhaps the album’s strongest track — ends with nearly three minutes of anthemic guitar chords unleashed over stuttering, fuzzy rhythm guitars. The result is a surprisingly accessible and uplifting sound that still retains a challenging and thought-provoking nature. “New You” is the closest My Bloody Valentine has gotten to a full-on pop song, yet the band refuses to let conventional techniques of music production dictate their beauty. For example, three minutes into “Who Sees You,” screeching elephant-like guitar noises wail atop propulsive instruments like some sort of giant, weeping creature struggling to escape an ocean of noise beneath it. Even during the album’s low moments, enough fresh and innovate production choices keep the material interesting. “Nothing Is” is a repetitive beat played ad nauseum, but also an exhilarating exercise in tension without payoff. The convoluted and unfocused “Wonder 2” is still mind-blowing — the sensory equivalent of watching television static in the Cinerama Dome during a massive air raid.
m b v is an album for those who find comfort in introspection and beauty in solitude. My Bloody Valentine’s sound can be challenging for the first-time listener, but with patience and an open mind the grace and complexity of this album reveals itself. This is an album that lifts all concerns from the mind of its listener; it leaves an empty, contemplative space between the headphones, allowing nothing but the band’s waves of thick sound to slosh around in your brain. m b v uncovers beauty where there is none and accentuates it where it’s present.
This is an album to listen to during a sunset, after the death of a loved one, before a marriage proposal or on a rainy day. This is an album for any circumstance. Listen to it and suddenly everything makes sense: that dirty pile of snow, that pesky hangnail, that guy yelling across the street. With this album, My Bloody Valentine has extracted every bit of beauty from walls of noise — they’ve found beauty in the harsh, the distorted and the ugly. I could have said these exact words about Loveless. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing at all.
5 out of 5 stars