Sound — 8
"m b v" is seminal shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine's long-awaited third full-length record. In spite of the fact that it's their first album in 22 years, for the most part, it sounds much like their first two: hazy, heavily effected guitars, high-pitched, seemingly whispered vocals, a constant sensual sorta feel, an underlying dance-ability at times... It's all here. What makes it stand on its own is that this time around, some new elements have been added to the band's pioneering shoegaze sound. Despite frontman Kevin Shields's claims of the opposite, "m b v" sounds a bit more like "Loveless" than their debut album, "Isn't Anything". Opening track "she found now", one of the very best on the album, harkens back to ballads like "Sometimes" and "Moon Song". Songs like "only tomorrow" and "who sees you" pretty much follow "Loveless"'s "beautifully-noisy-drone" formula, as well. That said, the songs are not as overwhelmingly complex as they were on "Loveless". For instance, Bilinda Butcher's vocals are pushed far more upfront in the mix on "if I am". On "Loveless" (and "Isn't Anything", to a lesser degree), vocals weren't as prominent mainly because they couldn't be if the listener were to take in all of the subtleties going on in the music. Even so, on works past, the distortion and effects occasionally threatened to take away from the music. "new you" feels like a response to that mentality: one of the poppiest-sounding songs here, it has an almost "Ride"-esque quality in the comparative cleanness of the guitars. While the some tracks (particularly the opening three) sound highly akin to their previous work, "is this and yes" utilizes keyboards over guitars with some minimalistic cooing courtesy of Butcher. During their long hiatus, Shields mentioned being influenced by some drum and bass music, and the last three tracks bear the marks of this influence. "in another way" is among the most prominently rhythmic tracks that the band has ever produced, along with the following instrumental, "nothing is". Probably the weakest track here, it features a continuous drum pattern and guitar riff while volume loops up and down a bit. Not a bad track, but it's no "Glider". Closing track "wonder 2" is the most exciting track on the album. Employing some of the heaviest flange effects that My Bloody Valentine has ever conjured up, it seems to endlessly spiral upward until it dissolves into nothing except for these effects and a very fast drum beat. A fitting closer, for sure.
Lyrics — 7
No one should expect much from My Bloody Valentine lyrically. Vocals are mostly downplayed and used much more so as additional instruments than as passageways for emotional resonance. Any syllables that become discernible in the ether are pretty much standard fare for them: love, sex, metaphors for love and sex, etc. Still, considering the erotic undercurrent of most of their music, the vocals fit the dreamy mood very well. Honestly, My Bloody Valentine's music would just be overwhelming in bad way (rather than in a good way like it usually is) if the vocals were much more prominent.
Overall Impression — 9
Before the album was released, Shields said that those who had heard music from the album thought that it was even stranger than that of "Loveless". They're certainly right, as "m b v" is the band's most avant-garde work to date. New experimentations, no clear choices for singles or "hits", and increasingly less immediate melodies all contribute to this. Regardless, if you consider yourself to be a fan, you will find plenty to like here rather quickly (at least within a full listen or two). My Bloody Valentine is certainly not the most song-oriented band; a huge part of the musical experience that they have to offer is simply losing oneself in their expansive musical landscapes. As such, their albums equal far more than the sum of their parts. Some songs do stick out more than others ("she found now" is among their best songs ever), but what's most striking about "m b v" is that against all odds, it really does sound like a proper follow up to "Loveless", as if it could've come out two decades ago without a hitch. Granted, the album was recorded on analogue equipment to give it that older sound, and some of this material was in fact recorded in the mid-to-late-'90s, but the album presents the band in more of a settled mood, as if knowing that they can't top "Loveless", they're still going to try and expand on their ideas stylistically and keep on making great music. Most comeback albums are either radical departures or mere rehashings of past glories; on "m b v", My Bloody Valentine work between these two extremes to sound like they never went on an indefinite recording hiatus. The fans have already bought this album. If you're new to the band, stick with "Loveless" for now, but if you like what you hear (this music is certainly not for everyone), "m b v" is a more than worthy listen.