Could I have written this post back in February when m b v was first released? No I could not, though let me tell you I desperately wanted to. I wanted to sit down and listen to m b v, I really did, but for a cacophony reasons it alluded me. Mainly it was apprehension that did me in though, the same apprehension to a lesser extent that kept Kevin Shields out of the studio for twenty plus years I imagine. Would it be good? Would it be the same? I wasn’t sure, and these things in all honesty dissuaded me from listening to the music. On top of that I knew I would never be able to give the record the fair listen it deserved right when it came out, so here I am over two months later writing about it finally. I take a breadth and push play.
Have you played Bioshock Infinite? I am not sure, but if you have recall back to the very beginning. Booker DeWitt straps himself down into a chair and is sent rocketing into the sky. Tension is high, Booker loses hold of his gun, his only sense of security and he is left strapped to a flying chair. Then he sees Columbia, both the city and the statue that comprises its center, the monotone voice announcing altitude coarsely utters a hallelujah. That moment reminds me of what it was like to first listen to m b v. Its first song, She Found Now seems takes you by the hand and whisper into your ear that it’s going to be okay, Kevin Shields does a solid job of reassuring the listener. It does more than that, though. The cooing vocals also seem to eulogize and who or what is in the coffin is left deliciously ambiguous. Is it something literal, something or someone who is alluded to in the lyrics? Perhaps, but as the lyrics are barely audible in true My Bloody Valentine fashion to that we can only guess. Rather I imagine it is the twenty two years of lost time being mourned over, the sanity that Kevin Shields seems to have abandoned but regained, the loss of self, and yes, the loss of the imagination.
By that I mean that before m b v, the follow up to Loveless could have been anything. The possibilities were limitless and m b v is perhaps the album that has been written the most times by many an idle fan crafting the record in their heads. But no more, and to think that Shields bids a last farewell to what could have been is a rather poetic notion. Enough imagining, Shields seems to say, here is what you have all been waiting for.
He delivers. I don’t really think that there could be a My Bloody Valentine fan that does not like m b v. This has proven to be a difficult review to write, not only for the previously mentioned reasons but also because there is only one other album to compare this one to, and its Loveless. M b v is not as good as Loveless, but that should not matter. What does matter is that the record is strikingly different from Loveles. I would even go as far to say that m b v is more varied than Loveless; richer in sound and more well rounded in terms of the production. And while all of it works it never quite is as brilliant as its predecessor, but really is it fair to mention any album in the same breath as Loveless? Still, it is a darn good record. If m b v had come out during the 1990’s it very well could have been considered better than Loveless purely for the quality of the production.
And of course the songwriting is as good as ever. What surprised me most about m b v is how much early My Bloody Valentine is present on the record. Certainly the drowned out sounds of the early nineties wins the day, but there is a little bit of late eighties, pre-Isn’t Anything thrown in there that is refreshing and works well in contrast with their regular sound, a sound that by no means sounds stale after sitting on the shelf for two decades. One of the things I liked most of Loveless was how undecipherable the words were. I found myself screaming out lyrics that I thought were in the song without really caring what the real words were. The lyrics on m b v are still fairly incomprehensible, but I didn’t find myself striving to come up with my own lyrics. Does that say anything about the quality of the record? Probably it does not.
All things aside, m b v is a record that stands great on its own but will never get the chance to do so. And while it’s no Loveless, m b v almost has more lore associated with it, it was after all probably the most anticipated album of all time, right next to the follow ups to Madvilliany and Since I Left You (balls in your court DOOM/The Avalanches). It’s a shame then that the music is impossible to listen to without bias, because really it deserves that, Kevin Shields deserves that. Certainly m b v answers questions, most notably what a follow up to Loveless would sound like, but also it raises plenty of its own. It makes me wonder, and at the end of the day that makes it all the more worthwhile.