mbv970600
by / February 4th, 2013 /

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

 5/5 Rating

(Self Released)

For the most part of 1991, I was 15. That’s when Loveless came out and I, like many curtain-haired teen, had a copy. I thought I loved it, Melody Maker told me so, but truthfully I loved their debut album much more. I got both records at the same time – pretending I liked Shoegaze before 1991, would be like pretending I liked The Smiths when I was nine (nobody liked The Smiths when they were nine.) My Loveless was the a-side to Isn’t Anything (they shared a TDK D-C90,) but it was the b-side that had my heart – probably because the songs were more like … songs. And it growled. Grungy in appearance, I hated rock. I was too shy to be a Goth, though I loved the music. To my mind, the attention they courted was crippling. There was no such declaration with My Bloody Valentine. Unwittingly, there were my saviours. Their place was an internal one. They carved an inclusive scene, one you didn’t need tell people about, never mind boast about – the music was plenty loud.

Where I lived, there was a town in the name, but the nearest one was ten long miles away – and even that stretched the definition. Getting out was more a survival instinct than an ambition – of course the soundtrack to such a transition will glow forever. It was 1993 when I left for college and got my own place. It was then that I was clouded enough to hear Loveless clearly. For all the myth/reality/actual barbwire surrounding this album, none of it was as affecting as listening to it … really listening to it. With My Bloody Valentine in general but specifically Loveless, there’s no entry point. It’s a tumbling, rolling, cumulus, impetus, subjective, vague, precise, personal, and momentous ride. That it didn’t sound like anything else, that it raised the bar, that the recording sessions were legendary, that Kevin Shields was/is a mad cap genius, that it birthed a scene (may be several), that it broke (made) a label, that it is one of the most influential albums of all time, that it induced tinnitus, that they kept us waiting for 20 odd years – that stuff, that’s a journalist’s dream. Go read about it. It filled pages for over two decades. Pages about how they changed the way music was crafted, produced, recorded, performed – detailed everywhere from pedal specs to band management fables.

For me, they changed how I listen to music. Not concerned with clever verse/chorus bridges of lyrical poetry, My Bloody Valentine are about the micros of music, not context or commentary. Their hooks are suspended moments and their moments linger timelessly. So let the journalists dissect m b v. Let them laud. Let them be disappointed. Let’s not be precious. This is not about nostalgia. The sentiment of debating over the violin/not violin motif in ‘Soon’ or the wretchy waft of hops coming from the Harps factory as the Belfast train passes through Dundalk following a heavy night in Queens SU bar, that’s nostalgia. Romanticising the past, the notion that your time was unique, that your time was the most important … that your time is past … that’s nostalgia.

My Bloody Valentine are all about being in the moment. And m b v is a collection of endless moments – gauzy, heady, harmonious moments, with ambiguous song-titles that would befuddle even the most wide-eyed dream popper. ‘who sees who’ is a haze of formless melodies, buried under diaphanous reverb. ‘is this and yes’ is a contemplative trickle of angel song. ‘new you’ is a lesson in noise and repetition. ‘is this and yes’ is Belinda at her most bewildering. ‘if i am’ inverts the probable nature of instrumentation. ‘new you’ is a skilled tremolo duel. ‘in another way’ is a blistering assault. ‘wonder 2’ is a guitar battle under a flight path. m b v is music to my ears.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • Cash

    How does this qualify as a review? “20 years ago I head a tape, oh and by the way, there’s some new songs now by the same band.”

  • Cash

    Was it that you were in such a rush to be first to review the album, in a cynical attempt to get the click-through, that you actually forgot to review album at all, breeding resentment among those that actually bother to click through?

  • http://twitter.com/TenakaD Ronan Carroll

    Completey disagree with those comments, this is a beautiful piece, perfect for the album in question

    I loved reading it, as will anyone who hasn’t trolled the Internet for the first mbv reviews will

  • Cash

    I didn’t troll the internet as you put it. It popped up in my twitter feed. I clicked through. I came for a critique of the album, and, well, there isn’t one here. I don’t see how it’s perfect for the album in question – it barely talks about the album in question.

    Three paragraphs on the writers personal relationship with My Bloody Valentine’s previous releases would have been fine if the ‘review’ was more than four paragraphs long.

    It’s kinda funny how the writer contradicts himself:

    “This is not about nostalgia.”; “My Bloody Valentine are all about being in the moment.”

    If this piece of writing isn’t nostalgic, then, well I’m not being grumpy on a Monday morning.

    I suggest you take a leaf out of My Bloody Valentine’s book and start ‘being in the moment.’

  • http://twitter.com/bitzlr Alan Reilly

    @4f64c9f81bb0d4ee969aaf7b4a5a6f40:disqus Hi Cash. The full marks and blatant gushing is my review, listening to the album should fill in the blanks. There’s context and some implication that there’ll be countless detailed dissections. Yes, there’s nostalgia, the piece is a personal narrative, so it’s my nostalgia. Not the band’s, that’s made explicitly clear and shook off. I’m sorry it wasn’t what you wanted, but I hope it encouraged you to listen to it.

    @twitter-21199430:disqus Cheers Ronan, glad you liked it.

  • http://twitter.com/aphroditelion Aphrodite Lion

    For what it’s worth Alan, I really liked the piece. It’s always good when someone puts a bit of themselves into review. Cash would hate the review on our blog (http://aphroditelion.tumblr.com/post/42182029135/when-i-wake-im-still-in-a-dream) as I spend the first 2 paragraphs taking about snoozing and dreaming.

    One thing though, from my memory of it you couldn’t get both Loveless and Isn’t Anything to fit onto a C90 without losing a big chunk of Soon. And if you put that on the second side you wouldn’t get I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It!

  • http://twitter.com/bitzlr Alan Reilly

    Thank you kindly. I was missing chunk of Isn’t Anything for a while, but that was quickly rectified.

    Nice review. I’m following you on Tumblr.

  • somethingswrong

    Best piece I’ve read on the album so far. Really gives why this band and this album are so important to so many people.

  • Sarah Jane Wow

    I agree with Cash. There’s not exactly much about the album in question on here. Pity it’s the first review I read. It’s just a stream of I, I, I. Who cares?

  • http://twitter.com/bitzlr Alan Reilly

    Cash Sarah Jane Wow

    A technical examination of m b v may be a necessary. Nostalgia and sentiment shine from a certain angle, the rays of which can only cover so much of the spectrum. A technical examination of m b v may a necessary because, for one reason, My Bloody Valentine are a band that high-lighted the importance of production – they, and others, caused people who have never, and will never, produce a song in their lives do evaluate and critique the mechanics of making of a record – the sleekness, the texture, the detail, the quality and so on, of the finished product. And they do so with absolute entitlement and authority. You don’t have to be a carpenter to prefer Danish design over rustic bog oak furniture, or Michelin-starred to know that garlic foam is bullshit.

    Why Loveless is so revered, aside from that emotional connection that captured generational vagueness in mystical song form, is its production. A staple for a myriad of genres today, sampled drum loops and muted vocals were pioneered by Kevin Shields and his contemporaries, tremolo play was practically his invention. Legendary numbers of engineers were hired and fired in a two year recording period to achieve Shields’ perfection. Erratic moods, studio delays, equipment changes – the engineers had a lot to deal with and for all their contribution, they only augmented a vision. It wasn’t them that created sexual tension in reverb swells, or loneliness in abstract loops, or meaning in wordless lines, or joyous dance in ambient trances – that was Kevin Shields, Colm Ó Cíosóig, Bilinda Butcher and Debbie Googe – portraying the tumult of their personal lives in obtuse art. Building on the seminal record that was Isn’t Anything, My Bloody Valentine utilised the studio facilities provided by Creation to the fullest, crafting piercing guitar drones, hard-core chords and that live bugbear of feedback into details of beauty.

    So there’s a mantel. How could m b v possibly compare? How could it reach those heights? Well, it doesn’t or shouldn’t. But comparisons are inevitable, it’s what we do. As for reaching heights, well picture this trajectory: a roaring ascension with Isn’t Anything followed by a cosmic zenith with Loveless, leavingm b v not so much in descent as a still glide – controlled and assured but no less thrilling. Perhaps even more so, with a playful confidence in the aftermath of elation. Forget the 22 year wait, put that one side if you can. Actually just put it to bed. m b v is to Loveless, as Loveless is to Isn’t Anything. It’s a natural progression. m b v sounds like Loveless, the same way Loveless sounds like Isn’t Anything. The constructs are the same, because the constructors are the same. The mood has changed, because moods change. If m b v sounds matured, that’s because time has that habit. If it sounds diluted in anyway, that’s just familiarity. Not the source material, but its brightest off shoots – everywhere from Broadcast keys to Mogwai muscle.

    m b v has plenty in the way of muscle. Back to back, ‘in another way’ and ‘nothing is’ are ferocious and unrelenting – one, a flight of careening guitar effects, the next a tight coil of noise and a pitiless trashing beat.

    If you are looking for the spell of ‘Soon’ or the majesty of ‘To Here Knows When’, both are present on m b v, on the same song, ‘if I am’ – a bowing mirage of languid guitar sways. There’s a gambol of tremolo shimmers on ‘new you’, with Bilinda’s singing almost decipherable – an audible change, is the balance between her dewy coos and casts of distortion. Perhaps technology-aided, they just seem more flush. Elsewhere, vocal fugues writhe with dense reverb. Opening the album, ‘she found now’ is a warm hug from the ghost of ‘Only Shallow’. ‘is this and yes’ is an elongated ping of a bubble bursting, a pause in six string virtuosity and cause for ethereal reflection on the battle of ‘who sees who’, flaring kinetic chord patterns and barely buried chorals by Kevin.

    A technical examination of m b v may be a necessary to some, but it won’t shed any more light than the nostalgic light. It might disclose the pedal spec used to make ‘wonder 2’ burst in continuous sonic boom or those ingenious programmed propeller beats, where did they come from? Or the pitchy frequency in ‘if this and yes’, perhaps that’s measurable What’s not measurable is alchemy that exists between the four that make up My Bloody Valentine. What’s not measurable is the hex the hold on their listeners (though some try.) What’s not measurable is how two decades on, without doing anything wild different, they still sound inimitably unique. More singular than ever actually.

  • Matt

    I was 15 for most 1991 also. It was like that. Including the last minutes of albums cut off the end of tapes. And you’re so right about The Smiths. I couldn’t understand how so many people I met at university were fans. They knew all the words. Must have been on a course…

  • hamish

    not to shoot down what is on the whole a lovely review, but please do some research. ‘Isn’t Anything’ was not MBV’s first album. The first album that matters – yes probably – but not, definitively, their debut.

  • cash is the root of all evil

    Just go and listen to it Cash, it will sound far more enjoyable than it is to read your banal whinging comments