My Bloody Valentine – m b v
The turn of the century was a time of great productivity for Kevin Shields. He toured and recorded with Primal Sceam, his arrival inspiring the band to produce their last essential album, XTRMNTR. His contribution to the soundtrack for Lost in Translation was widely praised and proved he was still capable of writing – and crucially, releasing – great songs. Yet as satisfying as that was, it could never compensate for the lack of material from My Bloody Valentine. The Anglo-Irish band, led by Shields, had seemingly passed into musical mythology.
Shields had a reputation for being a genius who had been curtailed by his obsessive recording techniques. The fables surrounding 1991’s Loveless – its cost, the number of engineers involved, the mixing process – are by now the stuff of rock 'n' roll lore. Now, finally, we have its follow-up. Although the timing of its release was a surprise, its existence was not. Since My Bloody Valentine reformed to play gigs in 2008, Shields persistently stated in interviews that a new album would be released. It’s just that so many people – even those closest to the band – found it hard to believe him.
On first listening to m b v, it’s difficult to comprehend just how many years have passed; opening salvo She Found Now and Only Tomorrow sound as though they could easily have been recorded in the same sessions that produced Loveless. The latter song in particular is majestic; Bilinda Butcher’s hushed, dreamy voice weaves through a gliding guitar part that could only have been produced by Shields, its subtle melody slowly attaching itself to memory.
Due to the absence of Colm Ó Cíosóig for much of its recording, Loveless relied heavily on drum machines. It’s unclear to what extent Ó Cíosóig plays on each of m b v’s tracks – but his snare-heavy, off-kilter style is certainly present on its first side, and his power and speed are of vital importance in the second half, in which the new My Bloody Valentine finally reveal themselves.
Shields had previously suggested that the album was influenced by his love of jungle music, and the proof of this stylistic shift can be heard throughout In Another Way, which switches from Butcher singing over a galloping rhythm to a heavily distorted melody that continually drifts in and out of focus. It’s an intense, intriguing and hugely rewarding song. The pace increases on the thundering Nothing Is, a driving instrumental that presses the reset button on all your previous assumptions about My Bloody Valentine. The complex collage of Wonder 2 brings m b v to a close in a fashion that suggests Shields is still brimming with ideas.
The prevailing feeling is that m b v isn't so much a successor to Loveless; it’s heavier, less immediate, and by the third listen sounds like nothing less than a triumph for Shields. His singular vision has paid off once again. Will we ever see another My Bloody Valentine album released? Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 22 years to find out.