Twenty-one years. Yes, it really has been that long since we last heard from My Bloody Valentine. With even more rumours than The Avalanches surrounding the existence or otherwise of this long-awaited album, is the summation of lost albums, million dollar home studios that ‘weren’t right’, tapes of 60 hours of psychedelic jamming, dozens of missed release dates and unexpected reformations any good? Yes, very.
Expecting a band to resemble itself after this long a break is a big ask, but this album is a grandiose example of the militant perfectionism front-man Kevin Shields is known for; like it or not, this is the album he wanted to make, the way he wanted to make it, released as he wanted to release it (website crashing aside).
For a band whose music assuages any sense of pressure, there is a huge weight of expectation around m b v, and it was always going to be a fascinating listen.
Renown for making guitars sound like you’re underwater in a ferociously bubbling hot spring, the opening seconds of first song she found now lets you know nothing has changed on that front. It is glorious, time-bending music the likes of which they pioneered and no one in the intervening years managed to replicate, despite Billy Corgan spending thousands of dollars and hiring Loveless producer Alan Moulder to try and guitarists the world over pouring over rare interviews with Shields to get his ‘glide guitar’ technique down; this sound is theirs alone. Resisting temptation to put that first song on repeat, the album sprawls forth, and as expected, is as much about sound as song. Previous releases found their sonic experiments hewn into pointedly pop songs or explored emotions that found resonance in the layers of sound and cyclical rhythms the band produced. Here, few influences of the last twenty years have crept in, with only the rhythms of drum and bass making their much-vaunted impact on the final two tracks. Drums may be slightly more martial and feature less of the twists and turns drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig brought to the pioneering album Isn’t Anything.
Some sections sound as though they were recorded in the 1990s and the band’s recommendation to download their album using ‘an Ethernet cable’ reflects the time warp that Shields and co. may be living in. Like the colour silver, this is dated yet futuristic music. Tracks nothing is and the closing wonder 2 have set blogs alight with the more forceful and vicious sounds they channelled on their earliest EPs. Churning drums patterns and cyclical guitar parts burn white hot, suggesting there is nothing in the My Bloody Valentine DNA that suggests ageing gracefully. new you is the only song yet to be played live, sung by bassist Blinda Butcher it is the most reminiscent of the band as we left them; Butcher’s dulcet melody to the fore and a sharp pop song flayed wide open with copious tremeloed guitars. Mbv is as varied and as monumental as could have been hoped for. May this is the beginning of a new season for this most incredible and surprising of bands. It’s hard to believe, but expectations for their first Australian tour since 1992 have just been raised even higher.