For a few hours on Saturday, Feb. 2, an indie band called My Bloody Valentine was a bigger deal than the Super Bowl.
It sounds crazy, but it’s true. On Twitter’s list of the most popular trending topics that evening, “#MBV” was number one with a bullet. Meanwhile, on the band’s Facebook page, fans posted dozens of comments per minute.
Once the new album that caused all this discussion was uploaded to MBV’s official website, the sheer amount of people trying to access the page caused a near-instantaneous server crash.
So, how did a group that hadn’t released anything since the early ’90s throw the Internet into complete and utter chaos? Well, that’s just it: the release of My Bloody Valentine’s new album marked the end of a decades-long wait for fans.
Back in 1991, the group released their classic, genre-defining second LP “Loveless,” which put the noisily ethereal style of rock known as “shoegaze” on the map. But lead vocalist/guitarist/producer Kevin Shields’ chronic perfectionism kept MBV from releasing anything else — that is, until last Saturday night.
After 22 years, My Bloody Valentine is back, with an album simply titled “m b v.” Yes, it’s supposed to be in lowercase. So are the track titles. However, now that the social media circus surrounding the release of “m b v” has become a thing of the past, one question remains: is the actual album any good?
Fortunately, the answer is “yes.” It might take awhile to get used to “m b v,” though. It’s an oddly-structured record, kicking off with its sleepiest tracks before building towards a psychotically energetic coda. Taken in one sitting, “m b v” is a slow-motion sucker punch that’ll leave you dazed, confused and wanting to relive the experience immediately.
And it really does start slowly. In fact, gorgeous opener “she found now” might be one of the most muted tracks in My Bloody Valentine’s entire discography, consisting entirely of whispering guitars and hushed singing. While subsequent songs “only tomorrow” and “who sees you” bring the intensity level up a few notches, they still have a tranquil vibe.
That sense of peace lasts until would-be single “new you,” which was known as “Rough Song” when it was played live a week before the album’s release.
The tune transforms murmured vocals (courtesy of the band’s other singer, Bilinda Butcher), a synthy bassline and a few unpredictable chord changes into bubblegum gold.
If you’re looking for an introduction to My Bloody Valentine’s music, this song is a fantastic place to start.
However, “new you” isn’t the highlight of “m b v.” That honor is shared by the final three tracks: “in another way,” “nothing is” and “wonder 2.” Together, they form a drum-and-bass suite of sorts, sacrificing the atmospheric bliss which defines the rest of the album on the altar of pure, brutal rhythm.
“Suite” is the operative word here, as these songs are so closely linked that it’s almost impossible to make sense of one without the context the other two provide. While this section isn’t anything like the rest of “m b v,” it’s a mind-obliterating ending to a tremendous record.
Before “m b v” was unleashed, the consensus among some fans was that nothing the band put out could possibly live up to “Loveless.” And, in a sense, “m b v” doesn’t — it’s not going to change the music world like that album did. Taken on its own merits, though, it delivers.
It’s an audacious, exploratory work that captures not how “Loveless” sounds, but how it makes you feel. The result is one of 2013’s first essential albums, made by a band many listeners thought would never record another note. Your move, Bowie.