Released: Feb 2, 2013
Genre: Shoegaze, Alternative Rock
Label: Pickpocket Records
Number Of Tracks: 9
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.
m b v
gray96, on february 14, 2013 1 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: "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. // 8
Lyrics: 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. // 7
Overall Impression: 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. // 9
m b v
UG Team, on february 15, 2013 1 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: My Bloody Valentine is a relative enigma in our vast musical world. They more or less founded a sub-genre of alternative rock, known as shoegazing. They released two albums, "Isn't Anything" and "Loveless", then they ceased to release an album for over two decades. Kevin Shields, one of the band's songwriters, would not release an album for lack of a creative flair and the band officially went on hiatus in 1997, six years after the release of their most recent album. I want to call this eccentric, but I know that theres probably more to do with it than meets the eye.
Recently, MBV had a reunion while Shields flirted with a new album, writing and tossing material at a frequent rate, culminating in a surprise online release, which unlike this review, was ready for Valentine's Day. The new album is fittingly named, "m b v".
After over two decades, My Bloody Valentine has stayed true to form with this album, though I wished that their hiatus caused a songwriting evolution within Kevin Shields. "m b v" is filled with the droning, distorted progressions that coalesce with predictably massive pedal boards (shoegazing) that result in an impenetrable wall of sound. However, this wall of sound isn't all that its cracked up to be. While interesting undertones are constantly present, the droning progressions and riffs are always the most prevalent, drowning out the vocals and under tones for the most part. Strangely, if you are trying to picture my description, look at the album cover.
Many of the tracks had appealing riffs instead of progressions, and "Is This And Yes" even utilized a sole organ to accomplish its purpose. The problem, at least in my mind, became that the riffs became monotonous and less appealing after each of the refrains. This leads to my honest opinion that the listener doesn't need to listen past the first minute of many of the songs because most of what is offered within the song can be found within the first minute. Of course, there are always the floating vocals that add texture, but overall, there are few, if any changes within a song. And for the people who havent listened to My Bloody Valentine or other shoegazers before, I literally mean no changes whatsoever, whether it be in dynamics, form, feel, or vibe. While it is arguable that this is not 100% correct, it sure feels how I described.
This is not necessarily a negative characteristic, however, because this is one of the things that shoegazing is known for and that has attracted many followers and curious onlookers over the years.
A notable exception to the norm on "m b v" is "In Another Way". This song showcases Shields's talent in weaving sections together in a harmonious fashion that I wish he would use more often. The sections sound just like those on the other songs except that there are obvious transitions and changes that keep the song intriguing. The album could have been vastly improved with more songs like "In Another Way".
A song like "Wonder 2", for example, has an instrumental section at the 2:00 mark that contains more than meets the eye, but the droning wall of sound overpowers it as well as the drums with the flanger applied, leaving the song below its full potential. It would not be treasonous if My Bloody Valentine allowed instrumental sections like these to flourish. I feel that the sonic vibe that is instilled throughout the album could still be maintained while making the parts of each song a little more different.
And therein lies my pet peeve with this album. Each of the songs features unique riffs/progressions that sound alike at the same time. This is an interesting and admirable quality of the album. What isn't interesting is how each song sticks to the same riff/progression for the entirety of the song without large changes, only very subtle ones. It would not be outside the realm of shoegazing to connect some of the progressions to add new dimensions to each song and further complete the wall of sound. I had hoped that the long hiatus would have caused Shields's writing style to mature in this manner and I am disappointed. Still, previous fans of shoegazing will find the material to be suitable and exciting; my critique probably applies more to the casual observer than the hardcore fan, and there is nothing wrong with MBV catering to their hardcore fan base. // 6
Lyrics: Vocally, the album remains consistent with MBV's first two albums. The vocals remain as a textured, harmonized, additional instrument instead of the driving force that they are in most rock and roll. Due to the wall of sound, the lyrics are indescribable. I would venture to say that the vocals are carefully placed and executed. My only issue with this statement is that the vocals are incredibly similar on each song, so Im not sure exactly how careful MBV was with them.
An odd characteristic of the vocals is that while they sound alike on virtually every song, at some points they serve to break the wall of sound, while at other junctures they seem to add to the wall of sound and feel like another droning instrument or effect. // 7
Overall Impression: While My Bloody Valentine's comeback release will not disillusion, and in fact encourage fans, "m b v" disappointed me with the presence of the wall of sound that did not allow the undertones to flourish, nor allow clearly noticeable transitions to occur. This album is certainly not a step back from My Bloody Valentine's first two albums; it is just not the step forward that I was hoping for. In the end, this album is a means for the fans shoegazing to rejoice, for the king of the genre has stepped out of the dark, and will hopefully stay (and maybe evolve too).
You can stream "m b v" in full here.
m b v
jazznstuff1001, on may 23, 2013 1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Sound: Fans and critics have been waiting twenty-two years now for a follow-up to "Loveless," My Bloody Valentine's 1991 effort, and one of the most highly-acclaimed releases of the 1990s. Lead guitarist and band producer Kevin Shields has garnered the reputation as one of the music industry's most stubborn perfectionists, and after promising fans time and time again that a successor to Loveless would appear one day, it is finally here. The year 2013 has brought the music world "m b v," a peculiar sequel that takes the band in a wholly new direction, but still drenches its tunes in the amorphous ooze and dream-like textures that have become the band's cognizance. The shoegaze genre, pioneered largely by Shields and My Bloody Valentine in the late 1980s, is categorized by ambient drones born of extremely distorted guitar, piano, and hushed vocal lines. Those ideas are present here, as the band members, armed with Fender Jaguars and an array of Boss effect pedals, find themselves exploring the spaces in between chords and pitches, transporting their listeners into a quixotic trance. The record opens with "She Found Now," a minimalist ballad with Shields singing lead, is conservative with guitar strums droning continuously for five minutes. The soft pitter-patter of plain percussion and occasional pitch-bending guitars allow it to achieve sublimity through simplicity. "Only Tomorrow," the next track and arguably the album's highlight, gives Belinda Butcher a turn singing lead vocals. Guitars saturated in distortion discover semitones with each compression and raise of the whammy bar. Butcher's sweet whispers compliment and give fullness to the trance created by guitar and bass. The song is unique in that it achieves a feeling of motion while standing still, perhaps the ultimate goal for a shoegaze track. // 8
Lyrics: While guitars served as an integral portion of instrumentation to My Bloody Valentine, "Loveless" explored their sonic possibilities on nearly every track. Where "m b v" becomes a separate album from "Loveless" is the band's experimentation with new instrumentation. "If I Am" bashes the listener with harsh drums and organs that build a foundation under Butcher's overdubbed harmonies. The song blooms into a call and response of whispers, with noises echoing in the background. At this point, the album teeters between noise and ambience, an intertextual experiment mingling two close but distinct worlds of music with such finesse that one might say this record was honestly worth the wait. The closing bookend of "Nothing Is" and "Wonder 2" showcase musicians continually exploring song structure and breaking from the shoegaze norms critics had associated with them decades prior to this release. The phaser guitar and frantic organ of the concluding "Wonder 2" seem to prepare the listen for a grand finale, but interestingly enough, "Wonder 2" does not end on a definite cadence. It swirls its sonic ideas together in such a way that transforms "m b v" into a complete circle. Set the album on repeat, and the transition back into "She Found Now" feels flawless. // 8
Overall Impression: At times feeling forceful and at other times gentle, "m b v" is a record unlike anything this year has seen so far. Songs feel like they move into one another on an album that does not feel like it has a distinct start or end. "m b v" is perhaps in this sense a circle, unending musical ideas that interject one another. Guitars glide and voices whisper to elevate the listener and move them through its rich drones. Shields has certainly outdone himself this time, not with a "Loveless 2," but with a record that is distinctly its own. // 8