Thursday, 28 February 2013

m b v Review

m b v
My Bloody Valentine
MBV Records

It suddenly struck me last night that my inability to finish this review, to settle on a definitive version of my opinion, was not unlike Kevin Shields’ own unwillingness to just say “yep, record’s done, get it out there.” All the press should get together and refuse to release their reviews for twenty one years and see how he likes it. He wouldn’t give a shit of course, because if nothing else, m b v  is the record he wanted it to be, and damn the rest of us.

In honour of his stubbornness, I am going to cut and paste my old versions alongside these new words. Originally, the review started like this:

Chinese Democracy. Prometheus. Kid A. Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. The Phantom Menace. The Next Day.

Whether revisiting the realm of your former glories, or desperately trying to forge a new direction off the back of a seminal work, the expectations that grow outside of the creator’s control can often form a larger than reality version than could ever actually exist.

I don't need to bore you with the 21 year history of the gestation of Kevin Shield's follow up to Loveless, but the weight of expectation does hang over its nine tracks. Even that seems slim. I remember when Kid A came out (and that was only a four year wait) I was disappointed to only be getting 10 tracks (and no singles, so no B-sides) and one of those was a washy instrumental. Over time, of course, I came to love it.

Which partly explains my inability to make a definite decision on this album. Is it a great album of all time, a great My Bloody Valentine album or just a great album for 2013? Or is it a mess?

The album opens in familiar, yet brave style. She Found Now washes into view exactly like it’s 1993, yet it is a lesser discussed version of MBV that make it's appearance first; their balladeering side, and this fits snugly between From Here Knows When and Sometimes in their catalogue.

The majority of the first two third’s tracks sound like good My Bloody Valentine songs. They have the odd eight chord cycles, atypical vocal hooks albeit with a more relaxed, laid back approach, especially with regards to the dynamics. Nothing is going to blow your ears off. They start, they sound good and then they end.

Only Tomorrow has a wonderful, underplayed melody that worms its way into your consciousness. Is This And Yes shows a different approach with a largely organ led arrangement and New You is disconcertingly regular in its production; the most accessible moment by far (and the only that could be a single), yet somehow weaker for it.

This is where I need to step back in, from the current day, and say I was about to comment that despite 21 years of work, it felt sparse; it lacked evidence of the care and attention you would attribute to a perfectionist like Shields.

But, it continues to reveal itself. It didn’t help I first experiences it through a laptop – my own stupid fault for rushing to hear it. My vinyl arrived yesterday ( and it is beautiful, much more so than it appears to be on a computer screen, which is appropriate) and I’ve blasted the CD out in the car too. Quite simply, it grows with every listen. Even New You, which sounded tame and easy, slowly reveals itself, which is contradictory because I said it was immediate.

At first I thought this:

So it’s weird it feels devoid of atmosphere. The swirling reverb and delay are undeniably atmospheric, but certain sounds, especially the chunking guitar and almost clich├ęd keyboard counter melodies on In Another Way just sound tinny and weak. It just won’t click for me.

But now it has clicked. I still don’t like that crappy guitar sound on In Another Way’s bridge (or whatever) but the way the wailing guitars bring it out of that section now makes sense. The sounds aren’t showy, but they are perfect.

The last third, starting with that track, certainly takes My Bloody Valentine to new territories, the thumping, rattling loops used to great effect. Although, these are also the tracks that recount the untouchable rush of first having the chorus of Soon immerse your soul. They are indefinable, delightful moments. Who wouldn’t have loved this to have been released the same week as Wonderwall or Country House?

Nothing Is is the duff Treefingers type palette cleanser, oddly positioned as track 8 of 9. But the album, once I stopped thinking of it in thirds, does flow incredibly well. It took a few listens to adjust to a post Loveless MBV and certainly, more releases will  help put it in greater context. It doesn’t have the pure force of nature of their last album, and lacks the ‘band’ feel of earlier records; despite no alleged digital interference, the drums in particular circle around like click tracks on occasion.

But this is Kevin’s baby, his vision and he has released it on his own terms. No easy route, no big comeback single; just the record he wanted to release and though I am still working my way through it, that is ultimately what I wanted from the record.

Dean Freeman

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