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My Bloody Valentine finally follows through on its post-‘Loveless’ promise

Annie Zaleski

The Details

My Bloody Valentine
mbv
Four stars

In a recent Drowned in Sound interview, My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe reflected on the band’s improbable rise in popularity during a 15-year period of relative inactivity: “It’s brilliant, yet also quite weird in a way that we became seminal for doing nothing.” Indeed, after releasing 1991’s Loveless—an album widely cited as a touchstone for countless dream-pop and shoegaze bands—the group fell silent, save for a few songs recorded for tribute albums.

But soon after reuniting in 2007, band mastermind Kevin Shields started promising a new My Bloody Valentine album, and while it took the noted perfectionist more than five years to make good, a record title finally emerged this past weekend. The nine-song release—titled simply mbv—is unmistakably MBV. Guitars shimmer like a disorienting desert mirage on some songs; on others, they slice through droning noise thickets using saw-toothed feedback or jagged melodies. Bilinda Butcher’s sighing-angel vocals waver between conspiratorial and detached, while Shields occasionally contributes darker, breathier singing. Good headphones are a must to unpeel the album’s dense sonic layers.

At times, mbv feels like Loveless dragged through quicksand—a slower, more measured take on that album’s sculptured noise-pop. But mostly, the new album’s rewards aren’t tied to the past. That’s most evident on the last three songs, which also happen to be the disc’s clear highlights. Grinding metallic effects collide with lovely strings on “In Another Way,” while “Nothing Is” is pummeling industrial-rock that ever so slowly creeps louder. And “Wonder 2” sounds as though it’s being performed right next to a whirring propeller; it’s six minutes of disoriented Butcher vocals, choppy noise effects and backmasked guitars.

Sure, mbv isn’t perfect—the first half is a bit sleepy and shapeless, and the album lacks anything as immediately arresting as iconic songs like “Only Shallow” or “When You Sleep.” The key to absorbing—and enjoying—mbv is not to bring expectations to it. Do that, and the album’s gifts should emerge soon enough.

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