Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In Revue- "m b v"

I’ve essentially lived in the “mbv”-less realm for my entire life. I don’t what it’s like to rhapsodize about a Valentine record when such praises are still trenchant. I’ve come to know Loveless, but was informed of its great mythos long before I ever pressed play on “OnlyShallow” and let a sea of feedback, reverb, and tremolo wash over me. I’ve felt the alternating world-weariness and triumph of tracks like “To Here Knows When,” but the emotions were hardly mine own. At times I was warping them like the red-veneer of Loveless’ album art to fit preconceived notions of what one should feel when listening to My Bloody Valentine. In effect, I was more concerned with how I should feel about the band, then what I actually felt when listening to them. So when the word finally came that Kevin Shields and company would be breaking their 22 years of silence with an out of nowhere release this past Saturday, I felt liberated. I was ready to come to terms with MBV on my own terms, in my own way.

To me the most remarkable thing about m b v, is not that it exists but that exists circa 2013. When My Bloody Valentine was in its first run, the shoegaze genre was nascent, it was the Indie R&B or freak-folk of the early 90s; something for the music hype machine to devour and demand more of. So in MBV’s two-decade plus absence, a slew of bands stepped into the void and staked their claim on what MBV had left on the table. When you hear Beach House’s Victoria LeGrand softly cooing over a swell of sound, the spirit of MBV vocalist Bilinda Butcher is there with her, leading her through the ether. Anytime Deerhunter guitarists Lockett Pundt and Bradford Cox rip away a soft-melody and dovetail into stereo-shattering solo, Kevin Shields silent cries are just within earshot. MBV attempting to begin again in a landscape it invented is virtually unprecedented, but restless innovators like Kevin Shields have rarely been concerned with precedence.

From the moment the first notes of “she found now” hit, all sense of time seems to stop. The entire discography of My Bloody Valentine is enjoined and the last two decades seem to disappear. Shield’s almost androgynous cooing of “you come back and see I welcome,” is appropriate when considering the constantly shuffled time-tables for this record’s release. 
As melancholic as the steady storm of the guitar is, it’s a welcoming sadness, one that lets us know we’re alive. The more strident “only tomorrow” is suffuse with life. Colm O Ciosoig lock-step drumming snaps the track out of hypnosis as Shields sings of wishing for a tomorrow where “love comes easy.” Every beat of his heart and every swipe of his guitar is a reminder that he is still alive.

One of the most arresting moments found of m b v is when the decibel levels come back down to earth on “is this and yes.” Over a circular synth, Bilinda Butcher’s whisper comes wafting up through the floor boards. Without a lyric sheet to cling to, it’s apparent that pain permeates throughout the track. The track is one of raw emotion, where the suffering is not from vociferous sound, but from silence.  If the past 22 years have taught MBV anything it’s the power of minimalism.

Elsewhere “new you’s” melodicism is a turning back of the clocks to a time before Loveless when albums like The Stone Roses’ debut reigned supreme in the alt-landscape. It’s easy to close your eyes and hear the jangle of the song as a band’s bid for commercial playability, but any band that takes 22 years off probably isn’t making a bid for commercial success.

In his review for Pitchfork, Mark Richardson suggested the album is effectively divided into thirds, with the squall of the first section gently fading into the hushed tones of Act II songs like “new you” and “is this and yes.” The final act then becomes a bloody shootout, where doors are ripped off their hinges and the five senses begin to crumble. Shields has repeatedly spoken of his fondness for jungle and drum n’ bass music, and its shows on tracks like “in another way.” While the guitar sputters the same fractured chords, the drumming is unrelenting propulsion. When listening to for the first time I found it impossible to make sense of the song, let alone find time to breath.

All the air is sucked out of the room by the time closer “wonder 2” storms in. It’s appropriate the whooshing on the track recalls a helicopter because I am instantly reminded of Apocalypse Now when the chaos unfurls. The lush jungle of Shields’ vocals becomes is set ablaze, as the cacophony touches down. As the last clouds of smokes waft into the night air, MBV ascends into the sky; looking for another village to raze.

Since I first become a hardcore music fan, I’ve been able to define my life by the releases I come across. Nevermind was my great awakening, The Queen is Dead was my grounding in mortality, Kid A was my portal into another world, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was my sin and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea continues to be my salvation. With every one of those albums I will always remember where I was the first time I heard them. Driving through Kansas City on a cold November day, trying to keep my car from crashing as my hands shake with every world Kanye utters. The same is true of  m b v. I’ll remember the joy at seeing the announcement posted that this did exist, the frustration I felt when that contemptible 404 error popped up. No amount of Ludovico therapy can erase from my mind the sight of watching snowflakes alight on my windowpane as the discordant notes of the opener come piping through my laptop speakers. I don’t know what it’s like to a love an MBV album when the relationship is still new, but I do now.  

"is this and yes"

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