My Bloody Valentine – m b v

Twenty-two years after their genre-defying Loveless, My Blood Valentine unexpectedly released a follow-up on Saturday night. But does it measure up to its iconic predecessor? TOM WILLIAMS reports.

My Bloody Valentine have some very dedicated fans. Almost 22 years since the release of Loveless – 1991’s perfect paragon of shoegaze – the influential Dublin band have inconspicuously released their third album, m b v, buoyed by the consequential hype lingering between the two releases.

It’s true: Hype is not always beneficial – especially when it’s built up over two decades – but I think we all knew that this wasn’t going to be another Loveless. However, m b v is a very mature album – it’s more measured than its predecessors, and it experiments with structure to find comfort within its own extended trance-like phases.

It all seemed like a sick joke at one stage, though. Information emerged incrementally from the enigmatic group, and news that the album was days away sent fans into a panic. The day came, the band’s website cruelly exclaimed: “Server Error. 403 – Forbidden”, and it looked like we might have all been pranked by a ruthless Kevin Shields, whose attempts to make us crave the forbidden musical fruit were definitely working.

It seems like a strange thing to posit, but My Bloody Valentine are in many ways all about subtlety. Their warm yet grimy analog sound washes over you, and it seems like there’s nothing but guitar velcro-fuzz until you immerse yourself in its layers – only then do you notice the subtleties at work.

One of the most telling tracks on m b v is ‘Who Sees You’, because it comes across as a slower and slightly disfigured relative of Loveless’ opener ‘Only Shallow’, highlighting some key differences between the albums. You witness the interplay between the guitars as they wobble and writhe about in their own mess, yet there’s something truly beautiful about their slow-grinding rhythm and warm, intertwined textures.

“It would have been naive to expect m b v to be a sort of Loveless version 2.0.”

There are pockets of experimentation as well: The sonically luxurious ‘If I Am’ flirts with extended phrases of psychedelia, and the minimal keyboard-driven tones of ‘Is This and Yes’ are similarly trance-inducing. Holistically, the melodic hooks aren’t as instantly memorable as they were on Loveless – they’re now more intricate and more drawn-out, requiring even greater concentration to fully grasp.

It’s on the last three tracks of m b v that My Bloody Valentine seem to revive some of their youthful energy. ‘In Another Way’ morphs into a twisted marching-band anthem, its heavily-affected guitars sounding increasingly like bagpipes. The rolling percussion of ‘Nothing Is’ grows louder and more forceful, coming to resemble krautrock on speed, and the erratic breakbeats of ‘Wonder 2’ mix with the rise and fall of some strange airplane-esque wind-tunnel noises.

It would have been naive to expect m b v to be a sort of Loveless version 2.0, considering that the latter is a masterpiece now almost 22 years old. My Bloody Valentine still sound like no other band, but they’re stretching out to a large degree on this album, making their sound even more texturally dense. It’s clear that m b v won’t redefine shoegaze like its predecessor did, but it’s an important statement from a band that remains vital to modern guitar-music.