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CD Review: My Bloody Valentine, “mbv”

20130201033613-1301c6d2-acbf-4d94-89cd-acfd99cdc850It was one of those very rare, and getting rarer, shared moments. On Saturday a few weeks ago the word got out that new My Bloody Valentine music was coming that night. Kevin Shields had promised this before for more than two decades and we waited. Thanks to the immediacy of the Internet, this “secret” party could be announced, the album could be dropped (digitally, obviously), and all on a Saturday night. Well, sort of. This cult band somehow managed the gusto to suck a sizable audience in, enough to crash the server for many hours. Questions like “did you get in,” “do you have it,” and “did you hear it” bombarded Facebook and email threads. With four weeks between this moment and now, we can ask the important question: was it worth it?

Short answer: yes, very much.

Long answer: as the fabled practitioners of “shoegaze” MBV melded soft, dreamy vocals with oppressive chunks of guitar fuzz and volume. How they would carry that off after all this time without being reductionist or disrespectful of their own legacy depended on how committed they were going to be to this thing. They didn’t have to be. Keeping a devoted fanbase salivating for so long meant that we would have taken anything we were given fairly gladly. That the band offers something that plays by the rules and then gradually weans away from them, and manages to offer the rightful successor to 1991’s Loveless in the process, is kind of miraculous.

The throbbing rhythm, a thumping on the bass more than an actual drum, underpins the wall of fuzz that coats opening “she found now” while, over top, sweetly sung vocals nearly cooed into a mattress of reverb unifies a divergent bunch of feelings. It is heavy, massive, yet light as air at the same time. The subsequent “only tomorrow” and “who sees you” follow the pattern but bring some hooks in, as well as the drum beat and a bendy, slightly woozy guitar line, like a slightly warped record twisting around.

“if this and yes” and “if i am” throw the listener off a bit, while “new you” throws the listener off a lot. That’s because it is just a great pop track, with no fears and no hesitations. Don’t worry though. The band takes the plunge into the sonic tsunami again toward the end of the record, but does so with an abandon that is thrilling and a little scary too. It is the moment when you just give up and go with it, stop analyzing, and let the waves do what they will.

I’ve spoken with other longtime fans of the band who have best described mbv as “the album I thought they would make but sounding a way I never expected,” which may be highly contradictory but nonetheless apt. Nobody wanted to hear a stripped-down acoustic record, but also didn’t want that unnerving feeling of hearing Shields and Co., having lived twenty-two years, learning nothing in the middle. mbv ends up being true wish fulfillment. It is growth without abandonment and worth the many, many years to get. It certainly made for a great “shared moment.”

The album is available in multiple formats from the band’s website: www.mybloodyvalentine.org

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