The new My Bloody Valentine record, “m b v,” doesn’t sound like I expected it to. I couldn’t have dreamed up anything like this.
It explodes with creative, noisy energy. With good earphones in, you will hear the music reverberate all the way to your toes. My Bloody Valentine’s first album in over two decades is not perfect in the way that 1991’s “Loveless” was, but perfection comes in many forms.
A week ago, frontman Kevin Shields announced from a London stage that a new My Bloody Valentine album could drop within days. Shields has broken his promise to release new music many times in the 22 years since Loveless disrupted the music world and helped define the shoegaze genre, so no one knew quite what to make of the news.
But Saturday night, the band announced the arrival of the album with a simple Facebook post and a link to its website. Millions of frantic fans promptly crashed the website’s server, and #mbv became the top trending topic on Twitter as folks waited for the Internet to chill out so they could order the digital download.
Loveless is not quite my record. As middle-aged dudes lost their shit in anticipation, the hashtag reminded me of that. Michael Roston of the New York Times tweeted “Couldn’t explain why Loveless was a big deal to girls when I was 15. Can’t explain it to my wife 20 years later.”
I bought “Loveless” from Borders bookstore when both I and the album were 15, and it opened a door to the type of music that continues to define my tastes. But My Bloody Valentine ultimately belongs to the kids who first heard it when they were trying to figure out what to do with grunge and punk, who felt it shape their high school and college experiences in the early ‘90s.
“m b v” can be mine along with theirs, because I was there with these older fans anxiously refreshing, hoping My Bloody Valentine’s website would give us something other than a 403 error. I’ll remember my uncertainty as I soaked in the first track, fearful that all the hype would make the record underwhelming.
“she found now” has none of the knock-you-on-your ass power of “Loveless”’s opener “Only Shallow.” Instead, it is quiet and raw, making way for the flood of noise and exquisite guitars, and weird, lovely effects that fill 46 minutes. The album builds on itself slowly until it explodes into the intergalactic victory jam of closer “wonder 2.” The drums and bass take a more prominent role than on previous efforts, and if you listen carefully you can almost understand what Shields and Bilinda Butcher are singing.
The context of “m b v” within music feels strange. It won’t likely have the transformative effects on genres the way “Loveless” did on grunge, shoegaze and rock and roll in the early ‘90s. You probably won’t hear tinges of it in every rock record made through 2020. It may not get radio play or sell well among music lovers that were not already waiting for it.
But it will play on loop from laptops and iPhones around the world. The fully analogue vinyl LP will be in high demand at record stores as long as record stores exist. Rock critics will praise it. And hey, maybe it’s finally time for a shoegaze revival.
“m b v” will help define my last semester of college and my transition to adulthood. Its weirdness and depth will be there for me on bad days. And it rocks enough to tide me over until My Bloody Valentine puts out another record, whenever that may be.
The album is currently only available in digital format. Physical copies will be available Feb. 22.
Published on February 4, 2013 as "My Bloody Valentine releases new album".