Half of the appeal in My Bloody Valentine, generally, is their vibe of indifference, and eagerly awaiting their new record has been equivalent to a terrible crush—the less he cares, the more you want him. You sit at home, waiting for Johnny to call while he goes about his life with a shrug, and one day (twenty-one years later, perhaps), he’s like, “Hey, so, you wanna hang out, or something?” And you excitedly say, yes, of course, because gosh, it’s Johnny, right? So you spend three days sorting out your best outfit, and the night of, you wash off and reapply your eyeliner approximately four times, and come 10 P.M., you wind up sitting on his parents’ couch, making out while half-watching reruns of I Love Lucy, and it’s as good as expected, as you’d dreamt it would be, no more, no less. But now you’ve had your date with Johnny, and that's that.
I’d sort of hoped M B V would be a throwback to Isn’t Anything, the 1988 indie rock record with odd tunings and dreamy teenage lyrics that undoubtedly should have been more ubiquitous in the 1990s. Isn’t Anything felt very human, whereas 1991’s Loveless, while beautiful and essentially flawless, was the perfect record to struggle to describe, less so a record with individual songs to latch onto. It was such incredible anti-pop.
M B V is, in sum, a marvelous follow-up to Loveless that meets expectations. We’ve reached a period in music history when every band sounds like the sum of three bands from thirty years prior, and when everyone’s favorite band from thirty years prior has reunited and then disappointed to some extent. My Bloody Valentine has accomplished what few others have, those said few being groups like Portishead or Mission of Burma, which is to reunite, and then fulfill expectations by creating a record that does not imitate any of their previous records, but that does sound very much as they used to, enabling an entirely new generation to “get excited about the new record” in the way one might have, over the sound one might have, more than twenty years ago.
No, M B V isn’t much like Isn’t Anything. But it has more individually memorable songs than Loveless while using it as a reference point, and on the whole is in fact more abstract. The in-and-out fade of “To Here Knows When” has been replaced by “Wonder 2,” whose plane crash speed can be described as little more than “the sound of the sky.” Bilinda Butcher’s always-ethereal vocals, appropriate for backing harmonies in any context outside of My Bloody Valentine, are downright spooky on the new record.
“Only Tomorrow” sounds utterly fantastic and bizarrely tuned, almost tropical, far better than a bootlegged live version or two that had swirled around the internet nearly a decade ago. One of the most fun aspects of this record is knowing that it’s been years in the making, and attempting to guess which tracks had been written fifteen or twenty years ago based on what sounds semi-dated in the context of alternative rock. And yet, it’s not at all dated, because so many bands have attempted to imitate MBV and contributed to a shoegaze history that M B V could easily have been created in New York in 2003, or Echo Park in 2012.
This record is warped tape, and ghostly harmonies, and dissonant, bent chords to remind that no sound is lovelier than that of a Jaguar. And while it's stunning in parts, though perhaps not enough to keep us interested until the next record is released, at which point Kevin Shields' writer's block may have aged him to seventy-one, it's enough to satisfy our curiosity and give us the comfort of knowing that MBV are just as good as they have ever been. [Pickpocket]
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