I came into reviewing this album at what one might consider either an advantage or disadvantage. This ambiguous vantage lies in the fact that I was not present on this earth when the predecessor to this LP came out. This LP isn’t just a follow up to an album that was released 22 years ago, it is a follow up to one of the most highly regarded and pivotal shoe-gaze and, to a larger extent, alternative rock LPs of all time. These two facts, when coupled, produce an enormous amount of anticipation. The sort of anticipation that can be damaging in nature. This is the sort of anticipation I curtly avoided, simply by not being around for all the promises Shields has made over the years to his armada of loyal fans. I instead seem to have found myself in the coterie of a new age, immune to the 22 years of anticipation and only susceptible to the last 6 years of it. Does this mark a new era of unpredictability towards whatever Shields promises next? We shall see.
Because of the years of endless promise and re-evaluation, the most recent of which being the fact that Shields guaranteed the release of a new album before the end of 2012, I find it incredibly amusing that the release of MBV occurred as I was returning home from a night of gallivanting. In no fit state to listen (let alone attempt to purchase something online) to an entire album, I retired for the night. The following day will stand in my memory as the day My Bloody Valentine conjured an album to cure my hangover. The next few days of letting the lusciously layered textures on this LP wash over me reinforced my opinion; not only is this one of the most beautifully raw pieces of musical work I have had the pleasure of listening to in the new year, it has the potential to become a timeless piece of art for future generations to admire. Much like Loveless is admired to this day.
Where Isn’t Anything served to satisfy the bands more esoteric ideas and Loveless served to obfuscate itself in a haze of intricately layered instrumentation and androgynous permeation, MBV finds itself in the process of utilising its past to mould an even more obscure future for the band. I honestly have no idea where the band will go next if the last two tracks off this LP are anything to go by. That being said fans of Loveless (and ONLY Loveless) will find solace in the fact that they have three new songs that they can let seep through them, these three songs serve as the opening triplet of tracks that harken back to 1991 where Shields so meticulously reinvented the electric guitar.
The fourth track, ‘Is This and Yes’, seems to be purposefully placed so as to clean the slate of the album in order to be able to introduce the rest of this oddly progressive album. The track is bereft of any guitars, and nearly bereft of any percussion, instead it opts to utilise a series of cadences to pull the listener along and introduce them to the second triplet of music. This third takes a turn for the ethereal and the catchy. ‘If I Am’ picks up where ‘Is This and Yes’ left off and reintroduces a pared-back, heavily wah-modulated, guitar progression to accompany Bilinda Butcher’s layered vocals. Synthesizer work seems to take a front seat in these three songs and their potential for expanding their sonic palette is evidenced by the pure captivation I felt when listening to the hook on ‘New You’. ‘New You’ being a fitting title for the three-song-barrage to ensue.
‘In Another Way’ initially sounds like a canine being choked by an electric guitar string while still being attached to its pickups and amplifier. That being said, it quickly morphs into an incredibly driven piece of work. If the first two thirds of the album focused on the guitar and synthesizer respectively, the final third relies heavily on almost krautorock-like percussion. This percussive theme follows into ‘Nothing Is’, which, for all intents and purposes, is the same riff repeated for 3 minutes and 33 seconds. This riff is absolutely blood curdling and, even though I see how it makes sense thematically, I despise it aesthetically. The album’s closer, ‘Wonder 2’, seems to take every concept the album had toyed with up to that point and proceeds to feed it through both a phaser and flanger simultaneously. The result is quite an extraordinary piece of music that builds up to the only logical conclusion the album has at this point, in that it leaves itself incredibly open ended. Go listen to this album, now.