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My Bloody Valentine amazes again after decades-long hiatus: m b v album review

m b v is a knockout

Senior Managing Editor

Published: Thursday, February 7, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 17:02

mbv

Courtesy of My Bloody Valentine

Album: m b v

Artist: My Bloody Valentine

Label: Self-released

Grade: B+

My Bloody Valentine’s landmark achievement, 1991’s Loveless, is full of stunning moments from its mind-altering opener, “Only Shallow,” to the guitar-distorted fantasy of “Soon.” However, there’s a particularly stunning moment in the middle of it all where vocalists Bilinda Butcher and Kevin Shield sing on “When You Sleep.”

“When I look at you/I don’t know what’s real,” they sing.

How can they be so self-aware? Loveless took all the grunge, angst and beauty of the ’90s and molded it into this dream-like epic that deconstructed musical theory while sounding consistently ethereal. It was once said Loveless was “the sound of God sneezing in slow motion,” which is not all that farfetched.

The potential dilemma of m b v, though, is that it is being released in an era that’s dominated by technology – both musically and culturally. The ’90s feel distant now. Also, many college students were just crawling out the womb when “Only Shallow” hit the airwaves. Can My Bloody Valentine still be relevant?

The beauty of m b v lies within that question. The album, My Bloody Valentine’s first in 22 years, never quite reaches the soaring heights of Loveless. m b v isn’t necessarily about besting its predecessor, though. The album breaks Loveless down into something rawer and earthier to make something entirely enjoyable on its own. m b v is where nostalgia meets musical ambition.

The magic of My Bloody Valentine is how it turns chaos into melodies and deeply textured pieces. Ironically, the band was at its best when it fully embraced those chaotic elements – like in “Only Shallow” and “You Made Me Realise.” In these songs, there was some effect or bend that listeners tried to hold onto amongst the organized disorder. It’s all enveloping instead of being abrasive.

It’s an aesthetic My Bloody Valentine uses to the fullest extent in “Only Tomorrow,” m b v’s immediate standout. Here, the always-entrancing Butcher sings over tightly constructed guitar chords, which feels very regular by the band’s standards. But then a high-pitched, haunting, rising synth shows up out of nowhere and just vanishes. It’s a type of tease that keeps listeners replaying the track over and over again until they realize they still have seven more tracks to get through.

Even before that, there’s an ominous feel that’s conveyed with the album-opening “She Found Now.” Those guitars are world-weary but far from melancholic, and the wobbly notes that accompany them recall a sort of existential angst that brings a sense of realization.

There are moments like these – moments that combine human desire with straight-up rock thrills – scattered throughout m b v, like in the pop-flavored “New You” and the exhilarating percussion in the album-closing “Wonder 2.” It all feels less textured than Loveless, but listeners will forget that as Butcher (who sounds more anxious than her doughy-eyed ’90s self) croons her near-indecipherable lyrics.

m b v is a solid set of tracks, but it isn’t any closer to the sound of God sneezing slowly. However, m b v succeeds in proving My Bloody Valentine is a band whose work can go beyond the confines of circumstance and context.

 

Email: arts@ubspectrum.com

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