Possibly the only act to make The Blue Nile look prolific, earlier this year My Bloody Valentine made what must rank as one of the most anticipated indie/alternative albums ever. In between times, hundreds of other acts have been compared to them, which of course merely prolongs the mythology about them. Even the reissue of their EPs and first two albums were delayed for what seemed like eons. Well, Kevin Shields and co. are now back with their first new album in twenty two years and it actually sounds like they went into the studio the week after ‘Loveless’ and just started recording again.
On that basis, ‘m b v’ is not a particular forward-thinking record but it is one which re-establishes their status as a special band with an expertise in production. One can naturally expect a middle-aged act to learn about subtlety but even so, for a band infamous for being a threat on your ears, ‘she found now’ acts as an unexpectedly soothing balm. Naturally, this being My Bloody Valentine, it literally throbs with effects as the woozily charming melody mesmerises and drifts pleasantly. Yes, pleasantly is the word, for this an album which – for the most part – won’t upset anyone. One would think that the next track, ‘only tomorrow’, would bring back the shock factor but despite the riff apparently being played out on a drill, it’s smoothed down and provides a solid and rhythmic undertow to counter the sweetness of Bilinda Butcher’s vocal. It is also the first of many great songs from ‘m b v’.
‘who sees you’ resembles a lumbering dinosaur grinding and groaning is way towards the conclusion but there’s a sweet tune to be discovered along the way and ‘is this and yes’ delights with its fairy dust keyboards. The shifts and warps of ‘if i am’ make it one of the more disorientating experiences on the record but its hooks (with Butcher in effortlessly graceful form) are seductive. Whereas that track takes a while to sink its teeth in, ‘new you’ is immediately arresting. It contains a disarmingly cheesy keyboard hook, unusually crisp drumming and narcoleptic “do do doo” vocals from Butcher. It should be awful but it’s brilliantly catchy. ‘in another way’ appears to be the loudest and most discordant track initially but the quartet manage to coax a defiantly, off-kilter, wordless chorus of beauty from their arsenal of FX pedals. Just when you think everything is going perfectly, though, ‘nothing is’ represents the only tune-free track: a relentless barrage of percussion which goes absolutely nowhere. This just leaves ‘wonder 2’ which, if we’re being hyper-critical, is the track which most sounds like a band covering MBV but its ability to turn plane take-off sounds into something so addictive and compelling is certainly worthy of kudos.
It’s debatable to say whether this record is worth the wait (no matter how legendary you are, it’s hard to justify over two decades of inactivity, after all), nevertheless it’s immensely satisfying to say that the record doesn’t disappoint. The only surprise is the relatively gentle nature of the record so unless you play it really, really loud, it won’t scare your parents either. In fact, come to think of it, they’ll probably remember the early stuff and claim they’ve gone a bit soft. All in all though, this is still one of the outstanding records of the year.