Artist: My Bloody Valentine
The mathematical formula for nostalgia states that it takes ten years for it to really kick in, but time does funny things to ideas. Take for instance George Lucas and Star Wars. After Return of the Jedi came out, it took almost 10 years for the Star Wars lore to really grow. In the early 90’s, one might argue that it was then that Star Wars was at the height of its popularity, mostly because of the historical revisionism of its rabid fans. The longer George Lucas did nothing, the more his stock as a filmmaker rose, even if it was only from one film. Star Wars, essentially because of time and nostalgia, became bigger than it ever should have been, making it nearly impossible for any of the prequels to live up to the hype.
Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine left the musical world with Loveless back in 1991. Ten years past and the nostalgia grew, but then just as it was peaking with the revival of shoegaze bands citing them as key inspiration, time crept on until it was now 20 years. The nostalgia formula also states that with nothing feeding said nostalgia, it can recede into cult status, which is where My Bloody Valentine have currently been for the past few years. With the release of m b v, Kevin Shields may have solved the mathematical nostalgia formula by timing their return just right, because by all accounts, the album sounds great, and is exactly what the fans wanted.
With the opening strums of “She Found Now”, My Bloody Valentine straps you into a time machine and takes you right back to where they left off at Loveless. That time machine might not necessarily take you to 1991, which is one of the attributes of MBV’s timeless sound. It’s reverberating reverb guitars (double reverb!) mark classic MBV, it’s so spot on that you might be fooled into thinking that it’s a cover band. “Only Tomorrow” is as poppy as the band gets but follows up the opening fuzz with a track with even more fuzz. The track is six and half minutes long and never really changes much, but the sound is so addictive that when it stops you’ll notice it as your ears go through withdrawal. It’s an impressive track that fully reminds you why My Bloody Valentine’s cult status grew with complex simplicity which is the staple of shoegaze.
“Who Sees You” is a track that sees Shields’ guitar chords teetering on the edge of sounding out of tune, it’s that fine line that never goes over that lends itself to another magic track. “Is This And You” while being a confusing title, marks the start of the middle part of the album that sees Debbie Googe take over on vocals. The keyboards and vocals are a simple drone, that don’t pop out like the first two songs, but mark a good transition for the rest of the album. “If I Am” picks up the pace which works better with Googe’s soothing vocals, but it’s so smooth it runs the risk of melting right off the speakers. “New You” is a beat based song, which utilizes the vocals as the forefront with the swirling guitars accompanying in the background. Thematically and aurally it shows the band steadily opening up the sound after they established the classic sound early on. “In Another Way” marks part three of the album which sees My Bloody Valentine starting to open up some new direction. The drums this time “swirl”, and guitars gradually build throughout the track.
“Nothing Is” is an instrumental drone track that might be the loudest on the album, it’s the manic drum beat that’s the forefront here, as the entire song seems to actually rise in volume as subtle layers get added. “Wonder 2” takes the “swirling” to a new level as everything from the guitars to the drums creates a tornado of sound around vocals and keyboards which root the track. Shields claims that there was no digital processing used on the entire album, which makes the last track an interesting aural puzzle and a delightful end to a strong album.
There was never a strong need for a new MBV album, 20 years gone, the music world took their brief foray and evolved it into growing sub-genre of music that spawned a whole new generation of musicians and fans. Their return, because of the elongated time, comes then as a pleasant surprise, and gives its loyal fans and music aficionados exactly what they would have wanted with a new MBV album. The sound is eerily familiar but still offers us an interesting update to a band we almost forgot about. The key it appears was the timing of the album, Shields solved the riddle of nostalgia and it afforded him the time to create a great return album. One that satisfies the fans, the music world, and himself. It’s too bad George Lucas wasn’t able to solve the riddle as well as My Bloody Valentine in a great return album.
– Michael Unger