New You: A Decade of My Bloody Valentine’s m b v
Reflecting upon 10 years of the band’s long-delayed third LP
Let’s start with the epilogue: In August 2013, Kevin Shields told Pitchfork that more music was coming.
Not six months after he completed one of the longest (if not the longest) brewing follow-up albums in history, at 22 years between the legendary Loveless and the almost mythical m b v, he pulled that shit again. An EP, then an album. No. Four years later, he said the album would arrive in 2018. Nope. Then two EPs in 2019. Bruh. The band who released only three albums inside of four decades then signed to Domino in 2021, and Shields had the balls to talk about not one but two not EPs but albums following up m b v, which turns a decade old today. Guess how many My Bloody Valentine EPs, albums, or played notes of publicly released music are in the room with us right now? We fell for that the fuck again.
Twenty-two years. It would take more than three Rihannas combined to release that much nothing in that span. That’s one and a half music critics’ lifetimes, meaning Simon Reynolds’ grandson will have to review the fourth (lol and fifth) MBV album in a mutated-COVID-proof Hazmat suit on Colonized Mars Brought to You by Tesla.
And Loveless’s follow-up is hilarious. Like some of my favorite Aphex Twin albums, the nine tracks are emblazoned with insults, not titles: “Who Sees You,” “She Found Now,” and my absolute favorite, “Is This and Yes.” Many music scholars have extolled Shields’ unheard-of explorations of the guitar, too few have praised his psychotropic experiments on the English language. One cut begins with the phrase “wonder sun,” if Genius is even correct, and you know Shields would lie and say it wasn’t. It’s not that anyone went to this band for coherent messaging, it’s just hysterical what a show they’ve made of not caring about anything that tethers them to reality beyond the grid of the 4/4 beat. The album title itself and pre-Windows 95 artwork are even more outwardly mocking. Few artists in the history of the world have attained the stature to broadcast utter meaninglessness from the top. It would all be memorably batshit even if it was bad. Instead, m b v followed Isn’t Anything, Loveless and the essential 2012 catchall EP’s 1988-1991 as the fourth masterpiece from a band whose entire mission is to ascribe zero significance to anything but the music.
Even the music on m b v contained at least one dynamite troll move, “Nothing Is,” which seemingly loops a section of the preceding “In Another Way” as kind of a weird, skipping-CD hoedown and warps it in audible but not quite describable ways (is it growing closer? Louder? Threatening to fall apart?) for 3:34 without change (or words). It should’ve been the first single, and they should’ve reported their sales to SoundScan, so that something this demented could’ve topped an actual chart during the only window when people would’ve bought literally anything this group released. Alas, even with rumors that the relatively (as in Cocteau Twins-level) normal “New You” would be isolated for some kind of promotional campaign, none of that happened. We still don’t know how well this album sold. Enough to keep them off Spotify dependency for a memorable nine years before caving in 2021.
“Is This and Yes,” per the title, would be another total prank from any other outfit that didn’t bestow upon us a mumbling, tumbling classic called “To Here Knows When,” just a five-minute organ vamp with inquisitive, dazzling chord changes and Bilinda Butcher intoning what Genius alleges is the word “again” again and also again. Tracks like these push MBV’s ambient, droning, circular sensibilities far enough from glide-guitar wall-of-sound noise-pop that they can be called protests. Few albums want to be as intangible to their interpreters as m b v, and interpreters are Shields’ prime demographic.
Here’s my interpretation: m b v, as lovely and mysterious as anything else they’ve done, strove for total reversal. Loveless was unfathomably huge and obviously fucking cool and somehow insanely pop. It sounded like whales and skyscrapers and the pitch bends that occur when your eardrums are at aircraft altitudes with the sky and engine all contributing to background noise that could just pop at any minute. Its successor wanted to sound small, modest, impenetrable yet homemade.
So the drums looped on “Only Shallow” thunder like the chaos of a monster movie and the hip-hop beat on “New You” sounds like your detention neighbor pounding it out on tiny golf pencils while shaking a tiny souvenir tambourine from a bar mitzvah. That said, the fuzzy bass is pretty swole. The opening “She Found Now” is appropriately epic too, with no drums at all, just a low chorus of vacuum cleaner guitars humming beneath one of Bilinda’s most hypnotic toplines. But it’s intimate, tented. When actual drums kick off the cranky Crazy Horse distortion of “Only Tomorrow” right after, it sounds like Shields and friends jamming take two in the garage on half-empty beers.
VIDEO: My Bloody Valentine “She Found Now”
Loveless sounded like it was Frankensteined together in expensive studios, running up enough bills and missing enough deadlines to literally make their A&R man cry and beg. Their third album sounded like no one was waiting for it, leisurely and urgent at the same time, unhurried yet frantically sculpted from unstable junk. Free from all systems of time, with loads of repetition, sonics that sounded mesmerizingly tinny, and no overarching theme beyond its own esoteric ambitions. “Wonder 2” ends it with phased and distorted drum and bass that dates it to the late ‘90s.
The hip-hop fusion of “New You” sounds post-Beck. “Only Tomorrow” flirts with the glide-guitar grunge of Sonic Youth’s Dirty. The whole ten years since these songs were given to the world went by fast, or maybe a particularly fascistic dark age for America just kept its slaverers occupied. Or maybe it takes two decades to properly usher in Kevin Shields’ next moves, bent blobs of tune, variegated sands of amp noise and layers of wordless chorale turning alternative rock back into a wild animal.
See you in 2033, and you know Loveless got that last word before the 22 years of incubation: “Soon.”
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