If you're anything like us, then you cancelled all your plans last night and snuggled up to your computer screen to frantically download the incredible new My Bloody Valentine album, mbv...you know, once the website wasn't broken anymore. The followup to Loveless was incredible in part thanks to its long gestation, 22 years in the making—the indie rock Chinese Democracy! But it's also incredible because on first impression (okay, after listening to it about 6x in a row), it's a masterful follow-up to a masterpiece.
In case you haven't gotten a chance to buy it yet, or in case you're a bit nervous about spending $16 on an album whose genre is considered "sneakerstare" or something, the band has generously made the whole album available to stream on YouTube. We've embedded a few highlights below, along with our initial thoughts on the record (because that's all we've been thinking about for the last 16 hours or so, give or take sleep).
The album seems to be divided up into three sections, almost like three EPs that were smushed together under one blue-tinged umbrella. Considering the bands love for the format (see: You Made Me Realize, Glider, Tremolo), and how much recording Kevin Shields and co. must have been up to (on and off) over the last 22 years, it doesn't seem like that far-off an idea.
The first three tracks seem to be a continuation of the sound perfected on Loveless—tremolo guitars layered on top of each other until the sound is one thundering, hazy wave lapping back and forth. That tremendous sound is peppered with ethereal vocal melodies, all of which rest on a bed of looped rhythms. It's definitely noisy, but there's logic inside of it that has seduced many guitar-music fans.
Except from the get-go with this album, things are a bit different—the vocals on opener "She Found Now" aren't quite as buried under an ocean of noise as they were on "Only Shallow." The second track, "Only Tomorrow," is even better (hear it above)—a classic MBV vocal melody married to an addictive guitar sound. As it progresses, the song keeps building until you realize we're hearing what amounts to a MBV guitar solo. As John Mulvey put it: "It’s lumbering, tentative, and far from the spiralling velocity of Shields’ old sparring partner J Mascis, but there’s a palpable kinship there, too, and an incredible tune embedded in the fuzz." And for a band not know for their dynamics, it's a pretty cool development.
The next three tracks are where things get really different: these sound like the closest things MBV have come to making (their version of) pop songs. The guitars aren't as immersive, the vocals are really easy to understand, and the synths seem to be the lead instruments at times. "New You" (listen above) has to be the friendliest song the band has produced yet—the song we would play to introduce someone to the band. "Is This And Yes" is even farther out for them, a song that is impressive by its lack of clutter. It almost sounds like Stereolab circa-Sound Dust period—space age bachelor music for noise aficiandos.
The last three tracks take a very dramatic turn: these are some of the nosiest, most sonically ferocious songs the band have produced. The first, "In Another Way" (listen above), is closest in melody to the rest of the album, but marked by the introduction of a looped drum 'n' bass-style percussion that defines these three tracks. "Nothing Is" is even weirder: an instrumental which has an industrial-like riff loping up and down on a sine wave, abrasive only until it becomes utterly hypnotic ("E-Bow the Letter," anyone?). And the album concludes with "Wonder 2," which successfully marries the rhythm assault with a pretty vocal (a la "I Only Said")—when you walk away from the album, it's that melody which sticks with you most.