No, this isn’t a joke – My Bloody Valentine just released a new album.
22 years is a long time to wait. But that’s exactly how long fans of shoegaze gods My Bloody Valentine have had to wait for them to release a follow up to their 1991 masterpiece Loveless. During that time the band started recording new material, shelved it, split, reunited and spent the past five years or so threatening to release new material some day to which we all responded with knowing laughter and words to the effect of “Oh you guys….” The thing is though, rather unexpectedly, My Bloody Valentine have in fact released a new album. And it’s good. Very good.
So how exactly does this new album, simply titled m b v, actually sound? In brief, a lot like Loveless. Opening number She Found Now glides in like a lost relic from 1991 with sighing, distant vocals over trembling guitar loops. It sounds instantly familiar and proves that despite their far-reaching influence, no-one sounds like My Bloody Valentine quite like, well, My Bloody Valentine. Only Tomorrow and Who Sees Now pick up the pace slightly by reintroducing drums to the mix but so far, so My Bloody Valentine.
While it’s initially reassuring to hear that hazy, feedback-drenched My Bloody Valentine sound once more, the fact that this opening trio sounds so much like their old material does make you begin to wonder exactly what My Bloody Valentine have been doing over the past two decades. But before familiarity can breed contempt, the ambient keyboards of Is This And Yes arrive to cleanse your pallet and signal the arrival of some slightly more adventurous material.
New You is a surprisingly funky bass-driven number and is perhaps the most accessible number on the album. In Another Way and (especially) Nothing Is crank up the volume, pushing drums to the fore of an almost industrial sound. Closing track Wonder 2 meanwhile confirms that there was, in fact, some truth behind head Valentine Kevin Shields’ claims he’s been drawing inspiration from jungle music. It still sounds like My Bloody Valentine of course, but it’s definitely the most ‘out there’ moment on the record.
It’s always going to be difficult to objectively review an album with more than 20 years of anticipation and expectation behind it but, if you try your best to ignore the protracted timescale, m b v sounds like exactly the record My Bloody Valentine should have followed up Loveless with. Familiar but with a few new ideas, it’s hard not imagine m b v receiving rave reviews had it been released in 1993. Fans of the band will find themselves instantly at home and it’s easy to see why. It’s a great record.
But for so little evolution to have occurred in the intervening years is a bit of a shame. When My Bloody Valentine first arrived with their scrappy EPs in the late eighties it was clear they were onto something special and when their sophomore feature length Loveless hit it was nothing short of a revolution. No doubt some were hoping that Kevin Shields and the gang could recreate that same impact and, simply put, they don’t. At least not here. M b v is more of a continuation than an evolution then, but when it continues a sound that was so unique (and perfect) to begin with, any complaints melt away. M b v is a welcome return from one of rock’s most reclusive bands and a worthy follow-up to their prior masterpiece.