First Listen: My Bloody Valentine’s album, MBV.

February 2, 2013 at 11:29 pm (Uncategorized)

As promised, I thought it might be fun to sort of  blog my first listen to the new My Bloody Valentine record.  21 years in the making, with two record labels left in its wake, this sucker’s finally out.

The album is 9 songs long.   As always with something this long delayed, the first impression of every single song will be “I waited 21 years and this is all?”

Also worth noting is that in the spirit of things, I’ve polished off half a bottle of malbec tonight already.  “Half in the can on Argentinian wine” is probably not the ideal mind and mood altering substance to listen to My Bloody Valentine to, but when you’re over 40 you take what you get.

And so without further ado, dropping the virtual needle on the first track…


1. “she found now”

There’s certainly no mistaking the guitar noise bed, is there?  Or the vocals, for that matter.  I’m not sure whether it’s Kevin or Bilinda singing here (both have fairly androgynous, hushy vocals and I’ve always struggled to tell who’s singing what).  This song is fairly hushed, with an almost “Loomer” feel to it.  Pretty sure that’s Kevin, now that I think on it, singing.  There are some very interesting chord changes at the end of the lines, but I’m not sure there’s an actual chorus here.  What is interesting to me is that listening to this track for the first half, I accidentally had the volume turned down a bit.  As with any My Bloody Valentine song, ear-splitting volume is part and parcel to the experience, and the louder this song is, the more I think I’m actually hearing.  A very nice, rather glide-y number.  Very low-key record-starter.

2.  “only tomorrow”

Huh.  A very chuggy guitar sound, with the drums mixed further up front (if there was percussion on “she found now”, it’s buried).  No mistaking that Bilinda’s on lead vocals here.  This song is actually very reminiscent to me of a lot of the Isn’t Anything songs with it’s rather lumbering but stuttery rhythms…but then the vocal melody really suggests Loveless a bit more.  And what’s this?  A Kevin Shields guitar “solo”?  I suppose it could be, of sorts.  This song is sounding much more the “hit” than the first, for certain.  This guitar solo is actually more like a droning riff, actually.  Really fat notes.  This is lovely, sort of vaguely soul-sounding, like a broken recording of the Mar-Keys shuffling through a soundcheck as played on guitar.

3. “who sees you”

With the drums that open this I thought for a second we were going full on “Only Shallow”, but no, Shields manages to throw all sorts of interesting-sounding chord changes (and I’m using the word “chord” very liberally here; at times it sounds as if he’s changing the melody by tremelo bar alone.)  Shields on lead vocal so far…no wait, maybe that’s Bilinda’s voice overdubbed on top of his?  This song absolutely lurches along, it sounds the way  stoned kids at Woodstock stumbling around looked in the documentary, if that makes sense.  Really interesting dynamic between the drums and the guitars.  The beat is almost skittery, but the melody is almost hesitant.  It’s as if the drums are playing eighth and sixteenth notes while the melody is all whole notes.  Good god, this song is freaking beautiful.  Ok, easily my favorite song on the record so far…it has that beautifully woozy feeling you get from the best moments of Loveless, but with that dichotomy of the way the percussion moves compared against the melody it’s something totally different.  Oh god, the guitars at the end just kicked in.  Have I mentioned how weird, dreamlike, and lovely this song is?  Cold out.  Perfect!

4. “is this and yes”

Okay, that’s definitely all variety of keys opening this song; sounds like a real actual farfisa organ at times, maybe blended with a synth…and hmm…I’m hearing what almost sounds like a pipe organ in there too.   Very, very, very Stereolabby, this is, helped by Bilinda’s vocals.  I just realized that my favorite Stereolab albums all came out after Loveless.  So yeah, feeling old now.  Guessing then that the key sound is lots and lots of moog.  There’s a sort of beat to this, but it’s almost like an echo-y throb, like the vibrations that really loud sounds make off a big kettle drum…muted and tribal almost.  A gentle, lovely come down of sorts from “who sees you”, but this one goes into my own personal “most likely to hit skip on the ipod” list.  Hopefully it’s an orphan there.  Yeah, this song’s not doing it for me.  At five minutes, it’s about three minutes too long. I hope to hell the sound that Kevin Shields has been hearing in his head and attempting to capture in recording is not actually Mars Audiac Quintet outtakes.

5. “if i am”

Drums and wah wah; that’s sort of new.  So far this is almost pitched at the same tempo.  Very jungle-y on the beats.  I’m starting to get a bit tempo-weary at this point in.  Bilinda’s singing, and while it’s soothing and this song is lovely, I’m thinking it needs to do something….and just as I think that, Kevin introduces some CRAZY guitar figures over the top.  Now we’re talking.  More of this, please, with what sounds like a slide guitar doing “glide”…and yes!  More of Kevin and Bilinda singing vocal clusters together, please.  That’s working now.  It’s interesting to me that this song felt like it was meandering a bit too much, and then all sorts of awesome happen.  Loving the end of it too, as random as anything in an MBV catalogue.

6. “new you”

“I hear a single!”  Big snappy beats mixed out front (think “Soon”, sort of, only bigger and fatter).  Huh, that was a crazy 1980-1990 break for the drums there, but totally works.  This is easily the most hummable melody on the record, and so far the song that would be the one you’d play for someone who you were trying to ease into the whole My Bloody Valentine experience.  This is the song you’d drop into the mix for a house party, right here.  I think that makes it sound facile, and I think it’s a deceptively “simple” song…but now that we’re 3:30 in, and Kevin and Belinda are singing “Doo doo doo” vocal clusters to one another, it’s got that “sonic equivalent of sex” thing going for it.  Yeah, that’s what I’ve been trying to say:  this is a sexy damn song.  Maybe too 1990’s.  But sexy.

7.  “in another way”

Nice!  If you were worried about MBV going mainstream after “new you”, this opens with guitar scree and drums that are an absolute throwback to jungle.  I’m loving that this is the best-hidden melody on the record so far.  By that, I means that it sounds as if it was written on an acoustic guitar at one point, and then Kevin Shields said “Now let’s bury this lovely set of chord changes under a ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’ drums and bass thing, and I’m totally going to do awesome cool guitar stuff over it about halfway through before Bilinda comes back in on vox.”  So far, my second-favorite song on the record.  Absolutely captures how MBV at their best, making an unholy, loud racket while also making absolutely beautiful music.  This song will get asses moving, as well.

8. “nothing is”

The hell is going on here?  Kevin, did you get a needle stuck in the groove of a Mudhoney song and decide to play that half-riff over and over again for three and a half minutes?  Ok, the drums are getting interesting.  This song feels like that giant boulder chasing Indiana Jones through the cave.  Just keeps snowballing bigger and bigger over the same weird riff and drums…with everything getting bigger and bigger and bigger as it goes.  Ugh, bad thought that crossed my mind:  the Matrix: Reloaded rave/orgy scene could totally be filmed to this.  Um.  Yeah, that’s less than good.  We have our second entrant into the “likely to skip” list.

9.  “wonder 2”

The opening of this album-closer reminds me of “Soon” without actually sounding like “Soon”.  In fact, it sounds like the sound of a jet plane taking off while a vacuum cleaner sings alongside.  Or something.  The percussion kind of got buried after the first bit, but now it’s coming up as Kevin’s guitars kind of sound like a blatting horn section.  He using pitch and tremolo to completely create the melody on this I think, rather than resort to boring old chord changes.  This is the most interestingly structured song on the record, and clearly a closing number.  If it’s the last-ever My Bloody Valentine song, it’s an interesting, multi-layered finish.  If it’s the start of more recordings, it’s a fantastic, skittering, noisy, glorious preface to more good stuff to come.

And that’s it.  My first thought is that this album is clearly layered and interesting enough that making a snap judgment right now would be silly.  My second thought is that this record does not sound like “shoegaze” very much at all, and that that’s a good thing, and points to what the band were trying to accomplish.  Let me boil it down:  I can’t wait to listen to it again and again and again and put some context to it.  Right now though, this MBV fanboy is digging this album immensely…so there you go.

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