Last week, My Bloody Valentine released their first album since seminal sophomore record Loveless in 1991. After disbanding in 1997, owing to a lack of creativity and the withdrawal of funding for their, even then long awaited, third album, the band reunited in 2007 and work on m b v recommenced.
Lead guitarist and frontman Kevin Shields told The New York Times: “I realised that all that stuff I was doing in 1996 and 1997 was a lot better than I thought.”
Shields, whose perfectionism on Loveless is reported to have nearly bankrupted their label, surprisingly told The Quietus last year: “I’m actually trying to move away from that way of working. I’m just going to try, as an experiment, to bash out a record for better or for worse. Do it quick enough to not allow my imagination to slow me down.”
My Bloody Valentine continue to sound like no other band. They inspired a whole genre of shoegaze imitators with the 1988 release of Isn’t Anything, but they cannot truly be likened to any other. The distortion of Shields’ guitar, suggesting layer upon layer of fretwork, has never been replicated. They have earned the highest accolade influencing bands from the Cure to Smashing Pumpkins, but the source of their sound is hard to defend as anything but sui generis.
The first five tracks of m b v could have been written in the same sessions as Loveless.
Opener ‘She Found Now’, is slowly carried along by chugging guitar and a constant tom-tom drum, and haunts with its frail, repeated line, ‘I wonder how that you found out.’ The fact that this line is discernible though is a slight change from Loveless, where vocals were smothered in hazy guitar. The next four tracks continue in a similar manner, including highlight ‘Who Sees You’, but by sixth track ‘New You’, the staccato bass serves to disrupt the oscillating guitar, suggesting a slight deviation from the continuous distorted backdrop of Loveless.
Towards the end of m b v, the Happy Mondays sound of Loveless closer ‘Soon’ progresses to reflect the big beat developments in dance music when it was being written, rooting this 2013 release firmly in the mid-90s.
With seventh track ‘In Another Way’, and closer ‘Wonder 2’, cues are taken from The Prodigy, as well as the more upbeat influence of jungle and drum ‘n’ bass. ‘Nothing Is’ sounds more industrial, but the dance influence is still there.
m b v is a phenomenal return for My Bloody Valentine. Besides the dance progression, the band aren’t doing all that much new.
Perhaps if Shields had let his imagination slow him down, a new release in 2023 could have been more novel. But after almost 22 years, no one has come anywhere near imitating their sound, making you realise just how utterly unique they are. So here’s to them doing what they do best.
My Bloody Valentine’s m b v is out now on Creation Records