22-year hiatus brings new album from shoegaze act
My Bloody Valentine’s “mbv,” an album famed enough to be called indie’s equivalent of “Chinese Democracy,” was released in the evening hours of Saturday, Feb. 2.
The album means a myriad of things for different fans; some will treasure it as the first release the band has produced in their lifetime, and older folks may see it as another milestone in the band’s catalog and a refreshing reversion to first-generation shoegaze. But while 1991’s “Loveless” has and will continue to be included in lists of seminal albums, “mbv’s” content may surpass that of its predecessor.
Like most of the bands housed on the now-defunct Creation label, My Bloody Valentine helped pioneer shoegaze, a genre with flanger-happy guitars, lush voices and surreal imagery.
The movement fizzled when Brit-pop hit it big, but it later found itself integrated into much of the indie rock produced during the first decade of the 21st century. This alone propelled the group to a status of influence, and a 2008 reunion saw rumors of new material and high hopes for fans. After four years of postponements and empty promises made by ringleader Kevin Shields, “mbv” was finally released to the band’s feverish, fervent fanbase.
Unlike My Bloody Valentine’s earlier albums, “mbv” is an energetic release with a remote, dance-like presence. Older tracks, especially those on “Loveless,” would begin with fervor but eventually descend into drone that would sometimes obscure other worthwhile elements. But “mbv” simply captivates, bathing its listener in long-awaited, sumptuous melodies that refuse to leave anyone disappointed.
The album contains a few stand-alone tracks despite its immense and flawless weaving, most of which are found in its second half. “mbv’s” sixth track, “New You,” follows in the tradition of genre-mates Curve, employing sensuous vocals — provided by guitarist Bilinda Butcher — to accompany a steady electronic melody. The drum and bass-driven “Nothing Is” is likely the most potent song on the album, its rave aesthetic serving as a eye-opening alternative to popular club anthems.
But it’s “Wonder 2,” the fitting conclusion, that provides a summation of what occurs on the new album. Loops, effects and a symphony of guitars paint a portrait woven from observation and integration of trends, which is an effort to avoid compromising what made people love the band in the first place. Even as helicopter propellers fade against its repetitive backdrop, the song — and the entirety of “mbv” — may provide fans with a preview of what to expect from My Bloody Valentine in future endeavors: a cacophonic wall of sound that’s capable of crushing critics and electrifying devotees.
And boy, we are excited.