Review by Benjamin Arnold
Almost as soon as primary songwriter Kevin Shields announced that the follow up to 1991 masterpiece ‘Loveless’ had been completed, it was released. On the 2nd of February, every music nerd on the internet converged on MY BLOODY VALENTINE’s website with enough weight to crash it for a full day. When discussing the third full length record ‘m b v’ it is impossible not to compare it to the iconic career highlight ‘Loveless’. Shields seems to perfectly understand the amount of hype placed on this record. If it deviates too far from the sound on ‘Loveless’ the original fans will tune out and if it tries to emulate ‘Loveless’ it becomes instantly forgettable and sits in the shadows. ‘m b v’ does both of these things and then something else.
The first third of the record plays out similarly to Loveless. Under a sea of chorus, distortion and reverb; Songs ‘She Found Now’, ‘Only Tomorrow’ and ‘Who Sees You’ are predominantly driven by the tremolo arm of Shield’s guitar. Pitch- bending his way through each song, the chords come in and out of focus, perfectly slotting in around the slow floating vocals.
Just as the record begins to feel like a remake of ‘Loveless’, the track ‘Is This and Yes’ marks a notable change. Moving away from the trademark shoegaze sound, it leaves the guitars behind. Shifting into a more electronic area, Bilinda Butcher’s vocals drift around with synthesizers and repetitious minimalistic beats. ‘If I am’ and ‘New You’ start to reintroduce the guitars back into the mix, but at this point it all feels a bit different. The music sounds more digitalized, the drum beats and synthesizers sound more electronic and in general the sound has become more electronic. Instead of trying to emulate the past ‘m b v’ starts to forge its own sound and its own place in the wet dreams of music nerds.
This minimalistic style (for a My Bloody Valentine record) disappears as ‘In Another Way’ rolls around. The guitars are cranked back up and it immediately starts to pummel you with abrasive percussion and a thick textural wall of sound that My Bloody Valentine fans have fallen in love with. At this stage in the record, the pieces start to slot together as both old and new are combined. Beat based electronic music and noisy strangling guitars couple to create an interesting new sound for the band. The track ‘Nothing Is’ is an absolute industrial assault on the ear drums, using the heaviest bass drums and increasingly loud guitars, it hammers home three and half minutes of enjoyably repetitive percussion, leaving a slight ringing sensation in the ear canal.
By the time the record has closed with ‘Wonder 2’ it has transformed completely. Programmed drum beats and synthesized noise combine with a trademark guitar sound, but by this point the guitars are in the backseat. ‘m b v’ is a journey, from start to finish the record encapsulates where the band was at the time of their 1991 release ‘Loveless’, to the current state of their sound 22 years later. The record doesn’t offer up any singles, it doesn’t try to either; it is a record that must be listened to from start to finish. Over the course of 46 minutes your perceptions shift as to how a My Bloody Valentine record should sound. All the while becoming lost and disorientated in a sea of sound.