The figureheads of an entire subgenre of modern rock music, My Bloody Valentine is the only band in history to make a career out of not releasing a record.
Following the likes of Glenn Branca, Band of Susans, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Phil Specter, and Alan Moulder, as well as the core sound associated with Alan McGee’s Creation Records, My Bloody Valentine became a genre unto themselves with their second full-length record. Released on November 4th, 1991, Loveless was Kevin Shields’ self-proclaimed masterpiece and few have disagreed with that designation. Its sultry vocals buried in layers of guitars launched a thousand imitators as it became one of the most influential records of the 1990s.
After Loveless came out, The Stone Roses waited five years to release a great follow-up record and everyone hated it. The Britpop of the era hadn’t been much for following-up on its initial brilliance. As of last night, My Bloody Valentine has finally tried. They’ve delayed this record so many times that most of us doubted it would ever happen, yet according to the server load on their website last night, they found what the world was waiting for.
It’s difficult to say what any of us expected from a follow-up, but wearing out the Reload button on our web browsers probably wasn’t one of them. Regardless, mbv is apt. It’s noisy and beautiful in the way that all of their records are, and in that way that only they can seem to do.
It’s also still sinking in. Upon a day or so of listening, I can definitely say that I like it. I’m glad it’s here. It seems choppier and less seductive than Loveless, perhaps less love than Loveless. It’s thornier, worn down, weary, and gives less of a fuck. One thing’s still for damn sure: No one does this sound better than My Bloody Valentine.
For example, here’s “In Another Way” from mbv, which I could listen to all day [runtime: 5:32]:
In the meantime, Loveless has been lauded, applauded, imitated, reissued, copied, covered, and worshipped. In 2007, Athens, Georgia’s Japancakes did an all-instrumental cover album of the whole thing. Here’s their version of “Only Shallow” [runtime: 8:57]:
As if anticipating the stars’ alignment, a couple of other MBV-related projects have emerged more recently. A little over a week ago, Japan’s High Fader Records released a Loveless tribute album called Yellow Loveless, which is much, much better than similar send-ups usually are. Tokyo Shoegazer’s two covers sound damn well indistinguishable from the originals, Lemon’s Chair stay true to their two entries as well, Shonen Knife evoke the girl-group roots of shoegazing pop on their version of “When You Sleep,” and the mighty Boris do a slowly crushing but primarily faithful rendition of “Sometimes.” Goatbed stray the furthest from the original “Loomer,” making it almost all their own. But the real gem here is Sinobu Narita’s “Blown a Wish,” which takes the original to dreamy new heights. Here’s Yellow Loveless in full [runtime: 1:01:25]:
In a slightly more experimental vein, Bullet for My Bloody Valentine is an hour-long drone-fest released late last year that makes its source material sound downright poppy. As described on the project’s Bandcamp page, the record is made up of “tracks taken from My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Bullet For My Valentine’s The Poison slowed down, the best bits cut out and layered on top of each other to create some sort of droney noise album.” It sounds nothing like either record, and it’s actually quite nice.
So, MBV fever is at an all-time high, but it’s hard to say if mbv will be judged well considering its predecessor and the decades in between. I for one aim to ignore the inevitable backlash that’s been germinating for the twenty-one year wait and enjoy the new My Bloody Valentine record. Finally.
P.S. Be on the lookout for an entry in Scott Heim‘s The First Time I Heard… book series on My Bloody Valentine, including an essay about my first time.