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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to… My Bloody Valentine February 9, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
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…sort of inevitable isn’t it given that last weekend they finally, finally, got around to releasing the successor to Loveless? 22 years between Loveless and latest album mbv (and kudos to them on the name of said album), that’s some record for going AWOL. And there are rumours that mbv is but the first communication, with another album promised ‘soon’… Though what soon means in the context of MBV is difficult to ascertain.

But at the risk of sounding like a wilful contrarian though liking MBV – and in the case of some of their tracks, see below, a lot – I’ve never been fully, completely, entirely convinced by them. It’s not the music, there are songs of theirs that even now, decades later, make me feel as if somehow Kevin Shields and co managed to dig down to the roots of this thing we call rock and somehow tap all its raw power, urgency and immanence.

It’s more that 22 years, that sense that something, anything would have done (and the soundtrack of Lost in Translation doesn’t count). Granted, simply that producing an album like Loveless – an album immediately hailed as a classic on a par with, well fill in your own list here, was in and of itself perhaps too much. So much so that nothing could quite match it. But with two decades worth of imitation and emulation, and some of it adding to rather than detracting from the original – one thinks of Seefeel, Belong and others, that doesn’t seem quite as solid a proposition as it once might have, though one couldn’t blame him/them for thinking it was so.

That said Shields himself makes his case well in an interview in The Quietus, that there shouldn’t be pressure, that that which one doesn’t want to write or release shouldn’t be pushed forward just for the sake of it. And that, that I get. Time flies. I was once a young man too.

Still… 22 years.

It’s not that Loveless Mk II was what was required either during those 22 years. That sense of surprise and urge to check the vinyl to see that it hadn’t warped when Only Shallow started with its woozy smearing guitars can’t be replicated. That Shields, Googe, Butcher and Ó Cíosóig managed to pull the trick once, and so soon after the JAMC had done something not entirely dissimilar was no small achievement.

But that is to reify one element of their sound to too great a degree. There are tracks on the album that are so graceful, so subtle and yet simultaneously ferocious that they they embody a sense of musical horizons expanding around them – tracks like Soon which with its dancey skipping processed guitar line and swells of sound and singing is a classic, or When You Sleep with its crystal clear descending guitar line and dual female/vocals that pierce through the fuzz that supports them which is likewise, or the way Only Shallow ends with the guitars that rise and rise and fade taking the listener somewhere else entirely.

Meanwhile what of Robert Christgau’s take on Loveless?

Some may cringe at the grotesque distortions they extract from their guitars, others at the soprano murmurs that provide theoretical relief. I didn’t much go for either myself. But after suitable suffering and peer support, I learned. In the destructive elements immerse. A-

Resistance is futile. One learns to love them.

But then to be fair Isn’t Anything wasn’t all that different. Although quieter, by quite some way, tracks like Soft As Snow (But Warm Inside), and perhaps in particular the surging guitars underpinning All I Need were directly comparable to later experimentation. While some of the album, like Cigarette in Your Bed, seemed to somehow provide a sort of missing link between no end of noodling on Cherry Red during the early to mid 1980s (those who have heard Paint A Rainbow from early in their career will know that twee was not an unfair term to use in relation to them) and something much more knowing, harsher and somehow adult, others like No More Sorry or I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel it) were the signpost to Loveless – again with the characteristic fuzz just about reined in. But it had an added breathiness to the vocals, particularly the female vocals, that sets it somewhat apart from Loveless.

So perhaps best to suggest that the sound was there already, the male/female vocals, all the jagged little chord changes, soft/loud, smooth/abrasive, the channeled feedback/tremelo sounds by way of the Jesus and Mary Chain, but where the latter had their own aesthetic, one parts noise, one part surf rock and one part pop, MBV were arguably much less limited by adherence to conventional song structures albeit their palette was sometimes surprisingly limited in ways.

I’ve had Isn’t Anything on vinyl for the best part of 30 years. But I never got around to acquiring it in MP3 form until fairly recently. Loveless I did have on CD as well as vinyl. Not sure what that says.

As to the new album? Much to admire and quite a lot that’s sticking with me. I don’t think the mythos of MBV will suffer one bit from its release, although it will take time to extricate its character from Loveless. More constrained though, quieter on some level – with clear, and welcome, nods to Isn’t Anything. I’d almost argue that it’s sort of spare, which is quite some feat given that most of the same elements are present and correct, albeit with a couple of newish twists – someone’s been listening to both the High Llama’s and Stereolab – and the jet engine sound on wonder 2 (supposed drum’n’bass inspired track) is inspired.

Would it have this much attention were it anyone else?

Interesting question. Well worth asking again in 22 years.

No More Sorry

All I Need

Cigarette In Your Bed

Soon

Only Shallow

Loomer

she found now

is this and yes

wonder 2

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Comments»

1. anarchaeologist - February 9, 2013

Great piece WbS and good timing. I wondered last week if mbv would ultimately disappoint, like the third Television album, but it hasn’t. And strangely enough I’ve been listening to said third Television lp this week and it ain’t bad at all either. The High Llamas thing is interesting too…

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WorldbyStorm - February 9, 2013

Sorry was out and about! Thanks a million, I feel much the same. Pleasantly surprised at how much I like it. Got o go back and listen to that Television album. I’m a bit conflicted b the High Llamas. One great stuff, Gideon Gaye is fantastic. Some not so great too.

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