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My Bloody Valentine: mbv

February 5, 2013

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Roll: N/A
Album: My Bloody Valentine, mbv

Since it’s taking me a while to get rolling again after the 2012 best of reviews, a little bandwagon jumping seems just the thing. Why should I be the one music writer to not weigh-in on the arrival of the second coming of shoegaze.

Putting it that way reminds me of the last time I’d rabidly awaited the follow-up to an unsurpassable classic, The Stone Roses‘ grand disappointment Second Coming (1994). The wait wasn’t as long for that disc (only five years), but the disappointment was far greater. I spent the good part of a week in denial that the Roses follow-up to their eponymous debut wasn’t more than a little shite.

The epic grandeur of the opening track, “Breaking Into Heaven“, was enough to disguise the fact the rest of the album lacked solid choons, as they say. The best of the lot, “Loves Spreads“, was overworked and sounded a bit like The Black Crows on methaqualone.  Or maybe a (more) pretentious, and less ballsy, Oasis. Either way, it didn’t sound like The Stone Roses we loved. I remember feeling deeply betrayed. It turned out our generation was no damn better than The Who‘s generation. Beauty is fleeting, everything worth loving dies.

Perhaps if The Stone Roses had just abandoned the sessions and spent another fifteen years on their Second Coming, it’d have worked out better.

Or perhaps not. Another reunion/comeback album I was excited for, Bauhaus‘ 2008 swansong Go Away White, was 25 years in the making yet didn’t quite deliver the old black magic. The problem could have been that it wasn’t actually 25 years in the making, it was 18 days in the making and that shows.

At first blush, it sounded pretty good; almost as visceral yet beefier than their early cuts. But after a few listens, things began to feel a little half-baked and Peter Murphy frankly needed more time to work on the lyrics.  Though probably not their intention (and it sounds like they were actually having fun in the studio for perhaps the first time in their history together), it came off a bit like Bauhaus “doing Bauhaus” with tongue firmly in cheek and not trying very hard. I remember walking to the subway and it suddenly hitting me, “Huh… this is all kinda bullshit, innit?

It was with both these disappointments in mind that my expectations for the follow-up to Loveless, if it should ever materialize, were low.

But unlike Second Coming or Go Away White,  mbv (what a lazy, cop-out title!) actually sounds like it was recorded by the same band that recorded Loveless. At times it also sounds a bit like Stereolab circa 1991, but one would assume MBV would have been influenced by that group and if mbv was released in ’93 or ’94, this is pretty much what it would have sounded like. It might not be the start-to-finish, all-killer-no-filler masterpiece Loveless is, but it shows an overall improvement in craft. Not too many bands from that era who are still putting out records sound this fresh and engaged.  And, for my money, a  few of the songs actually are better than anything off of Loveless.

What is great about mbv is it doesn’t sound like My Bloody Valentine “doing My Bloody Valentine” (tongue in cheek or not). And even better it doesn’t sound like My Bloody Valentine doing Fleeting Joys/Air Formation/Pia Fraus/etc. doing My Bloody Valentine. The latter option was my expectation for the best we could hope for.

Ultimately, despite my instinct to form a contrary opinion to all the hype and hyperbole surrounding mbv, it feels to me like one of the best follow-up albums ever offered by a band (whether it took six months or 30 years to make). As a bonus, it’s made me a lot less chagrined by the prospect of new platters by The Stone Roses and Jesus and Mary Chain.

I suspect the number of songs from mbv are going to dwindle from my iPhone over time but, unlike Go Away White, the album will remain safely in my collection.

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