Shockingly, worth the 22-year wait
Well, it's time for me to make a public apology. Around 1997, when rumors began to swirl that My Bloody Valentine were finally about to release their third album, my friend from work Mary Elizabeth was beside herself with anticipation. But I remember saying to her, tucking into a bowl of green chile stew in a booth at our hangout, the Frontier diner on Route 66 in Albuquerque, that part of me hoped they never released another record. "I mean, after all this time," I said [Loveless. after all, had come out nearly six long years before], "how could it be anything but a disappointment?"
Nearly 15 years later, that third album is finally, suddenly, here. And it is by no means a disappointment, although I'm sure dozens of professional-contrarian bloggers started their "We waited 22 years for this?" pans before the first track even finished downloading. In both sound and spirit, mbv (the album announcement takes pains to point out that both the album and song titles should appear in lower case, the sort of typographical frippery we usually ignore here at Critical Mob, but I'm feeling magnanimous) is the logical successor to Loveless. On the surface, however, these nine songs seem to have more in common with Glider and Tremolo, the two EPs that came in between Loveless and its predecessor Isn't Anything: until things get a bit noisier and more beat-driven toward the end, a certain placidity reigns. Interestingly, some tracks contain echoes of the band's musical contemporaries, an interesting move for a band so often thought of as sui generis. For example, quietly hypnotic opening track "she found now" suggests that Kevin Shields spent much of the last two decades getting heavily into his Yo La Tengo albums. (It was his remix of YLT's "Autumn Sweater" that fed those new-album rumors back in the day, after all.) Elsewhere, "is this and yes" consists solely of long-held keyboard chords, overlapping to create shivery overtones, over which Bilinda Butcher occasionally sings single wordless notes; think Stereolab stripped down to their most basic essence.
But fundamentally, mbv picks up more or less where the band had left off, creating tunes out of layers of instruments so processed and distorted that they become pure sound, with Shields and Butcher's voices placed so low in the sometimes-disorienting mix that not only is it near-impossible to parse out the lyrics, sometimes it's even hard to tell which vocalist is singing. And yet, interesting soundscapes are rarely the point of these songs: even on one or two listens, tracks like "new you" and "if i am" reveal memorable melodies and even the occasional ear-grabbing hook. More openly experimental efforts like "in another way," which kicks off the album's more chaotic final third, come closest to the difficult-listening tag the band's detractors have always charged them with, but even there, the songs invite more than they push away. Trust me, if you're even the least bit of a My Bloody Valentine fan, this album is cause for celebration.
|She Found Now|