Archives for category: My Bloody Valentine

mbv 2

Further thoughts following up the original review/appreciaton: ‘mbv: A Remastered Review’ piece (https://tuppencedylan.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/m-b-v-remastered/)

What started as an attempt to be quick to respond to an unprecedented new album release ended up turning into a kind of ‘m b v’ journal. It also got confused by an intervention from real life that made me concentrate on something other than music for a week. I have tried to edit these ramblings. I don’t know how successful I have been. Dates and references may be all over the place. Beware repetition and mixed connectives. I’ve kept the production values hazy to retain an overall effect, don’t you know.

So I didn’t spend Saturday afternoon (February 2nd) and evening eagerly trying to be among the first people to get the new My Bloody Valentine album, listen to it twice and quickly post a review thus the massive outpouring of blogging that went on. The reviews are now appearing (February 5th) but no reviewer has had more than 3 days to get their head around the album. There were clearly no advance copies. You might as well buy it and do it yourself. You may even have an insight into the idea that maybe music journalists regularly knock something off during lunch rather than listen to a review copy over a week to get familiar with it. Is it any good? It’s a late 90s MBV album, what do you want exactly? If you are interested, if you already own ‘Loveless’ or more, then you are bound to like it. It’s that simple. Does it break new ground? Maybe it did but it doesn’t really break much now. How could a groundbreaking album even be humanly possible? Someone is supposed to have recorded consistently groundbreaking music over 5 years and then kept it in the vault for 15 and none of those ideas have since been developed, done to death or even started to sound dated. Impossible unless you believe Kevin Shields to be some sort of actual prophet.

However, some of the critical reception seems to suggest that this is an even more perfect album than ‘Loveless’. Now, it seems obvious to me that Loveless was far from perfect, ‘Soon’ already sounded dated when preceded by the rest of the album. It was recorded 18 months before, imagine 18 years… ‘Loveless’ is a seminal album but at the time it was one of many that came out in 1991. Nirvana were the biggest name in alternative music when ‘Loveless’ came out and would remain so in its wake. Shoegazing bands who borrowed heavily from My Bloody Valentine’s sound had vanished as a going concern by the mid-1990s when this ‘new’ album should have come out. Only Spiritualized really survived only to later become a tad predictable and Stereolab either took the scene forwards or backwards depending on your opinion, or the Stereolab album for that matter. We may joke about Ride going on to become a source of a new Bonehead in Oasis, but Shields was an extra in Primal Scream too. A lot of the reviews of ‘m b v’ seem to forget the context it would have had if it appeared way back when.

Of course, another reason to not take the announcements of an imminent release seriously was that there has been plenty of form in that department. Sudden announcements have been made before and turned out to be inaccurate. How do poorly remastered reissues result in a delay of over a year? The new album was supposed to be delivered before the end of 2012. Why am I going to waste Saturday waiting around for another rumour to play out false regardless of who starts it? Clearly plenty of people did. It is as if the sudden December announcement left fans almost feeling spoiled for choice after so little material for so many years and then this reaction ‘inadvertently’ created a massive blog hype machine of people checking daily for a new ‘m b v’ album like Marquez’s colonel waiting for his pension or J.R. Hartley tracking down a copy of ‘Fly Fishing’. Did New Order fans do this once ‘Lost Sirens’ became delayed? More on New Order to come. (Probably too much on New Order so that the point becomes laboured. The point is also weakened as ‘Lost Sirens’ is so dull, that I still can’t be bothered listening to it again for this piece…and still can’t now as I edit this for a second time.) Does this instead reveal something about MBV fans of the past 20-odd years? We are either still pissing around waiting for alternative albums to appear rather than mowing lawns or frantically barbecuing or our lawns and barbecues become instantly tedious when compared with a new album from a band from another era. Either way, we may have failed or missed a few boats somewhere along the line. Let’s start trying to pull ourselves together.

Indeed (no idea what this ‘indeed’ follows but I like it’s tone so it stays), on Saturday itself, the website crashed, trying to pay without Paypal was still proving impossible on Sunday afternoon in my case. However, after a break for a late lunch, I got myself an incorrectly registered Paypal account  (I still have to get back to them to sort out my account which is currently registered as being in both Shropshire and Chiapas for some reason) and downloaded the album fairly easily despite iTunes attempting to create two albums, the first of which just contained the opening track. By 7pm Sunday, I was using ‘m b v’ to soundtrack my Superbowl experience. I had spent an hour or more attempting to achieve this and it had cost me over a tenner, had they just stuck the album on iTunes I would have merely had to pay £6 at Mexican prices (actually 4 if a recent 3 for 2 offer on gift cards is factored in). Can’t quite see how we are supposed to be behind the self-releasing and publishing revolution on those figures. The sound is also poorer than my usual iTunes downloads and needs a boost of a good 20% to get the full effect on headphones much like an old Northern Soul collection. This could be deliberate as those old albums tend to be viewed with much more affection than an artificially loud recording that lacks both depth and substance. Oasis were guilty of this in the past and history shows the lack of depth it masks. However, this quiet album might have been drowned out by the tedious bombast of Britpop had it appeared in the second half of the 90s. The quality of sound and price of ‘Lost Sirens’ is better but this is like a teacher praising a child for an immaculately produced but ultimately vacuous essay.

The delays, the hold ups, the mistakes, the general fannying around and the cost had seriously irritated me before I began my listening experience. That may be why I was ready to bathe in backlash. I was wrong but also notice that the backlash seems to be disappearing as the week develops and reviewers have actually had time to listen to the album PROPERLY and reflect on something special rather than just vent their frustrations as I would have done on Sunday. However, Monday morning felt good with a new My Bloody Valentine album to enjoy afresh and which sounded so familiar as to be comfortable. It is a form of nostalgia, albeit a nostalgia for something that sounded like nothing else at the time of its release.

Did I give ‘Loveless’ the same attention? At the time I seem to recall being more of a Nirvana and Galliano fan. Yes, that is quite the combination. Good job I didn’t start a clothesline pushing lumberjack corduroy. ‘Loveless’ almost seem to deliberately arrive at a time when it would not attract too much initial excitement compared to what would ultimately grow afterwards. It’s reception and reviews of the new album do suggest a lot of people, experts even, only becoming fans long after the initial release. With ‘m b v’ the group have successfully created the exact opposite effect. I imagine that this will lead to ‘m b v: 1 year on’ articles arriving in Stereogum in about 11 months.

Too many reviews and reactions, more depth. (That note was written some time after reading through endless reviews)
This still seems to be something of an issue despite attempts at improving the responses after initial reviews had been rushed out. Time may be the enemy of the blogger but it is necessary for truly great music to take hold. I suggest we might just like to revel in that indestructible fact rather than frantically aim to disprove it by comparing ‘m b v’ to ‘Finnegans Wake’ just because Shields and Joyce are Irish and took years to follow up on their most fondly remembered work. ‘Finnegans Wake’ is a nightmare for any reader to deal with and may only work properly if read out loud with the emphasis in all the right places for the phonetic jokes to work. That is clearly very different to ‘M b v’ which may even be more accessible than ‘Loveless’. FW is more like Terrence Trent D’Arby’s 2nd album or ‘The Second Coming’ but with more depth.

Why didn’t people react this way to ‘Lost Sirens’? I guess that’s the true value in not keeping a legacy going when uninspired. Essentially, that seems to be what Kevin Shields has done since 1994/5-ish when the rough demos for this album must surely have been recorded but left far from completion. Does ‘m b v’ sound dated? Yes, of course. The most substantial aspects of its recording  are at least 18-years-old. It does not sound as dated as ‘Lost Sirens’ which must have been recorded about 10 years later (I swear it only gets one more reference. They should have called it ‘n o’ for convenience). However, there are clues that suggest the album is from the vaults rather than a new idea or a reflection of where Shields is at in 2012. The Primal Scream remix (‘If They Move, Kill ‘Em’) sounds more modern than the first 6 tracks and they must surely pre-date it. Afterwards comes ‘Wonder 2’, the 2 tracks prior to it could be contemporaries of the Scream mix but ‘Wonder 2’ seems like the next step – which makes this album a summary of My Bloody Valentine 1992-1998.

That makes it hard to dislike. That makes it exceptional, like if The Beatles anthology series had turned up an entire album of unreleased tracks secretly recorded after the group had ceased to function and assuming they weren’t as dull as their solo work. Like the ‘Caribou Sessions’ bonus CD that you get with the Dennis Wilson ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ reissue that did so well and inspired so much affection a few years back. Affection is the only reaction possible from fans from the original era. Later fans who picked up on the legacy cannot fail to be blown away by 9 new tracks which are not completely new and thus reveal weaknesses compared to current sonic experimentalists. Television or Big Star’s comeback albums and so many others did little to add to their legacy, more taint it. Would you want your favourite cult band to release more albums after they were close to the zeitgeist than when they were it? Just ask Mission of Burma or Dinosaur Jr. fans, it’s a false economy. The new cannot be better than the old when there has been such a gap in development. In that way, this new album may promise more to follow now that a line can finally be drawn under the 1990s.

So is it any good then? (I have since decided that it definitely is.)

Initially I have to say I thought it quite bland. The muddy production and mastering don’t help. The sound quality on the mp3 means turning up the volume every time I listen to the album, which is a bit much if you have been listening to old My Bloody Valentine b-sides immediately before as happened later in the week. However, it is noticeably familiar from the very off. The album still hasn’t leaped out at me (after a day or two?) and still seems like it would have made for an excellent additional release in 2012 to draw a line under the 1990s. I initially view it as something like Can’s ‘Lost Tapes’ or even a good version of New Order’s ‘Lost Sirens’. ‘Loveless’ didn’t immediately grip me as ‘Nevermind’ did around the same time. I always felt that it was excellent but there was always room for improvement as ‘Soon’ seemed to spoil the end of the album as it sounded like it belonged elsewhere. ‘Isn’t Anything’, the ‘You made Me Realise’ EP and ‘Strawberry Wine’ were almost if not more enjoyable than ‘Loveless’ to my ears for a year or so. It was only later on in life that it became my go to MBV album above all others. I had also, presumably, stopped listening to Galliano by that point after being irritated by their appearance at Glastonbury 1994.

Then (not sure when) the listener starts reflecting.What would lost albums from other groups from this period sound like? Would they be any good whatsoever? Did anyone get excited by the lost Screaming Trees sessions that appeared a couple of years ago? Another issue to consider is whether this album would have been as well received then as it has been now? Oasis kind of blew subtlety out of the water in the second half of the 90s ands only Spiritualized seemed to come out of the shoegazing era relatively unharmed. (I know, I know, I said it already.)

A similar joy to ‘m b v’ can be found on the second Bark Psychosis album, ‘Codename: Dustsucker’ which appeared 10 years after their debut but didn’t create quite the same buzz. Err…that’s it on Bark Psychosis I guess, but both their albums are worth seeking out – especially if you find them in a clearance sale in El Salvador for about a fiver for the pair as I did.

Those last 3 tracks…I may have already covered all of this in my previous review.
‘Nothing Is’ is excellent in its relentless de-tuned glory. An excellent build towards the most talked about track, ‘Wonder 2’ which someone summed up simply as “relentless helicopters”, I forget who or where but can always credit it if someone tells me. It is a brilliant two-word review though. After hearing ‘Wonder 2’ a few times on e realises that it is the most developed sound in terms of progression but perhaps not the album track that you will return to repeatedly. That honour seems to fall to ‘In Another Way’ which does all the shimmery stuff in the right way and would make for great headphones in the bath listening. To some extent it is comfort food but it also hunts around and finds the uplifting melody that transports the listener that none of the first 6 tracks quite manage to do. This is the track that you will whistle or smile while listening to, much to the disbelief of the passing pedestrian – these are MBV melodies after all.

‘Isn’t Anything’ was my MBV album, complete with the introduction of fairly nondescript titles. The ‘You Made Me Realise’ EP lifted MBV to the status of fabled band for me and therefore I found ‘Loveless’ a little disappointing when it first appeared. The muddy production can’t have helped. The preceding EP suggested something odd and then the album returned to more familiar territory in a number of cases. ‘Strawberry Wine’ really needs to be properly reissued though it may not suit Shields’ tastes, it was a beautiful piece when it arrived, much more so than the scrappy yet exploratory ‘Ecstasy’ mini-LP. Prior to that, ‘This is My Bloody Valentine’ was weak, but single tracks like ‘Sunny Sundae Smile’ and ‘Lovely Sweet Darlene’ are not that far removed from future MBV sounds if only a little more cute and Sarah Records in style. One thing is clear, from 1988 onwards, MBV were always near the top of my lists of favourite artists even if I might not have realised this during their late 90s. The feelings inspired by ‘m b v’ tell me that if nothing else.

Can this album create a legacy like ‘Loveless’ managed to do? It shouldn’t. In 22 years, there should by now be plenty other superior albums which explore, remind and uplift in the same way without arriving way after the event. It has been incredibly well received. It probably averages higher review scores than ‘Loveless’ managed but would any of those reviewers dare go a step further and claim it to be a better album? A more perfect sound? Forever? Still, it beats listening to Hot Chip discussing Hall & Oates in interviews. ‘Wonder 2’ or ‘Maneater’? It’s not a difficult choice as to which will inspire the better music in the future if not the least derogatory. Blah, blah, blah etc.

ENOUGH!!! 

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mbv

I took several stabs at writing about ‘m b v’ and still have a messy draft that I might attach to this once it is reissued in deluxe format in about 20 years but less than a year before I next write anything. This morning I opened my draft to find all the paragraphing deleted including the subtitles. It would happen for this album, wouldn’t it? The initial trouble with ‘m b v’ was other people (“they’re the worst!”) as every time I’d sit down to write about this latest musical event (for event read hype) of the year, someone else had beaten me to it by mentioning Stereolab, Spiritualized, Third Eye Foundation and many more little references. Reviews seemed to quote each other and, when read all at once, seem to blur into a multi-tracked buzz of excited riffing, just like the sound of My Bloody Valentine has always managed to do. There is something about the sound which makes music journalists reach for the thesaurus or even a guide to musical terms as agreed upon by the Melody Maker circa 1991. ‘Relentless helicopters’ was used somewhere and I like that. Just keep it simple but almost nonsensical…almost. After all, who is likely to read a review of this album as they think they might like it? Everyone who owns this album will already be a fan. The hype that has engulfed its release has ensured that anyone feeling a little left out must be totally alienated by the experience by now. Also, good sense would tell a music fan that it might be best to get into the early stuff first. This may be something that My Bloody Valentine now have in common with Bob Dylan and Neil Young among others.

The context is everything for this album. Is it just a matter of tidying up some old tapes that have remained unreleased for a long time? Is this the My Bloody Valentine equivalent, along with the ‘EPs 1988-91’, of Can’s ‘Lost Tapes’? If so, there will be no more to follow. So why announce live dates too? Surely this is then an old album that is finally seeing the light of day just like Dennis Wilson’s ‘Bambu (The Caribou Sessions)’ being tagged on to the excellent ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ reissue of a few years back. Hard for the late Dennis to tour that release, but had he been around, you think he might have as it went straight into the UK top 20 album chart, something the original never managed. However, ‘m b v’ has been released at a price of $16 or 10 pounds rather than simply given to loyal fans who don’t want to shell out cash repeatedly or won’t. Either this is because the material is more important than a bunch of unreleased demos or the shields estate needs a serious cash injection and so ‘Odds and Sods’ MBV-style has been knocked out. No, maybe that was a possibility but surely not so soon after the remasters finally emerged. A third possibility then emerges that this is an album that shows signs of being begun over 20 years ago and really has only just been finished off after initially being discarded. Do we honestly expect a musician to have stepped into a studio 20 years ago, recorded various tracks for a few years that then get abandoned for almost 15 more years and for those recordings to not be similar to anything else that has appeared in the interim? Impossible! This album is a good, no excellent, version of what New Order’s ‘Lost Sirens’ is. It has been released by a band stepping back into the arena rather than one seemingly torn apart by infighting between its two most iconic members. It may reveal weaknesses in terms of some areas sounding a little dated but this should more than adequately balanced off against the nostalgia advantage that the album has. Is nostalgia valid in assessing new music? I would say it is but it can ruin things if allowed to run out of control. Any further MBV release would have to move forwards quite significantly or risk becoming their ‘Be Here Now’.

This then is a new My Bloody Valentine album that will be toured. If it sounds dated or unfinished, we don’t care as we’d rather not wait another 20 years for its completion. The only negative aspect to its appearance would be if it were to destroy a legacy, a mere shadow of the band hastily packaged as a cash cow from recording sessions that cost too much money to go to waste. It is interesting that the ‘Loveless’ sessions and New Order’s ‘Sirens’ sessions both seem to have cost a quarter of a million as did sessions for Keith Moon’s disastrous solo album. Looked at like that, My Bloody Valentine represent value for money. No more preamble…

m b v

Even the lower case letters are a 90s throwback. At least they’re not printed in the lower right corner and followed by an ironic question mark though their position is not far off the former. Even the album title has an ambiguity of either being tossed off demos without a proper name, or is it the definitive self-titled album that isn’t a debut? Did ‘blur’ get there first?

‘she found now’
Begins with a gentle drum and everything’s soft, fuzzy and warm with it due to the characteristic effects of a womblike pulsing. Womblike pulsing? Why do MBV always have this effect on writing? This really is a simple opener which breaks no new ground except for being the first track on an album which people have waited 20 years to hear. It would fit well on the ‘Tremolo’ EP. The wash of warm fuzz acts as a portal into the world of the album. Background sound around the room, nearby traffic or a television across the way are now merged rather than drowned out, one might say they’ve been caught by the fuzz. Either way, attention is focused on the album as there is no other option. So many peers and alternatives to MBV have long become background music rather than dominating the actual background so effortlessly. Maybe that is a strength to the group that I have only just realised. So there we have a new album opening up something new in what we hear of a known band. This is no unreleased demo then.

‘only tomorrow’
Wonderful booming drum sound! Vocals and bassline surround them to create something slightly more forward-looking in approach, beyond ‘Loveless’. A wonderful, lazily discordant riff saws through everything else in a way that reminds me of Moonshake’s first EP…which, ironically, predates ‘Loveless’. So the overall feel has returned to Shoegaze ’91. There is no real progression just a development of the existing mbv stock sound. A simplistic beginners guitar solo adds another memorable track over the top of the familiar perhaps helping to disguise the lack of anything truly original. However, that guitar does serve to make the song memorable.

‘who sees you’
Now, surely this could be a ‘Loveless’ outtake. Everything about the opening suggests classic MBV. The drum intro leading into the uneasy drone which resolves itself into something familiar with repeated listens. It’s not that it’s bad, but it hardly acts as a memorable addition to what already exists. This could have turned up as a bonus track on the remasters and no-one would have noticed anything out of place. However, how repetitive can a band be if they don’t release anything for 22 years? That’s tha advantage of what used to be the problem with My Bloody Valentine. Expectation may have not been simply for more similar, formulaic material but almost anything would do. After a while of absorbing the fact that this track is not going to rewrite the genre, the listener may become beguiled by all the classic MBV hooks falling into place. It is dreamy and hazy again, like no band since. It does not, as some reviewers may claim, require drugs to be appreciated. Instead, it creates that soporific effect. We can just leave this alone as we’re simply happy that there is more. It would be great if Talk Talk, The Cocteau Twins and The Stone Roses could produce something unreleased that sounds this good but I doubt they can or will. The La’s might have something left in the can but Lee Mavers probably won’t let anyone ever hear it.

‘is this and yes’
Many MBV titles are meaningless but they usually make some kind of sense. An ominous gap may be exclusive to my download so I won’t over-analyse. The gap makes sense if we are to divide the album into thirds. The title may suggest something existed before and after its content – what ‘is this’? What is the question that is answered with ‘yes’? This is the part of the album that sounds most like Stereolab interlude though it is a tad long to be a mere interlude. The title might be explained by the words but I’m not sure there are any. Quite a mysterious little track that doesn’t seem to even feature a guitar as far as I can hear. Whether this sounded like Stereolab as they existed in the mid 90s is unclear, but what is clear is that this track heralds in a new sonic landscape to the MBV canon. Is this progression going to continue in the second third of the album?

‘if i am’
More new sounds. This time a distorted wah-wah that might have allowed this track to fit on to a Kevin Shields solo album around the time of his ‘Lost in Translation’ work. However, for all the joy of a new sound we seem to be developing a line and length approach to the pace of the tracks. This song seems to chug along at much the same pace as ‘only tomorrow’ and ‘who sees you’. Of course Oasis’ debut chugged along at a metronomical pace but there the Britpop links must end. Instead, this sounds like Echo Lake or The History of Apple Pie could have included a version on their recent albums and the original author never be discovered. After a couple of minutes this listener found himself asking ‘is that it?’ It seems it really is it and that I should just let my guard down and enjoy it for all its classic MBV broken walkman stylings. That broken walkman reference has certainly been used before, possibly about ‘Loveless’.

‘new you’
Dated like ‘Soon’ by the time ‘Loveless had appeared? This would be fine as a ‘Lost Tapes’ track but not really on a new album. A kind of MBV-lite go pop. Comparing it to The Farm as I read elsewhere seems to go a bit too far but maybe it is not too cruel to suggest that this lighter track may have paved the way for a Bilinda Butcher solo career had it appeared sooner than 2013. What makes this track irk? The warm fuzz has been reigned in. This would now not seem out of place on the weaker major label Cocteau Twins albums but in a more tidied up form. Might this have sat comfortably next to a less commercial Pulp had it arrived on schedule? It certainly could suit a Jarvis vocal. Now we pause to see if anything emerges on further listens…no, definitely a bit dull. It suggests that they may have had to come up with something that Island might have wanted to release. It fails. It’s saving grace is that it acts as a good counterpoint to all the fuzz. It signs of the predictable section of the album and leads us into the considerably more gory final third.

‘in another way’
Distortion, that familiar Beatlesey drum loop, grinding sounds at the higher end and we’re off. This track feels like another era of the group altogether compared with the first 6 tracks. This and what follows feels like it belongs together with other similarly confrontational material while the rest of the album was almost an attempt to produce something Island could handle. This track has a beautiful chopping rhythm mixed with slightly dated keyboard sounds. This is the beautiful noise that we craved. This instantly puts cynicism at rest. This is what Paul Weller thinks his last album sounds like. It doesn’t. Noel Gallagher will have become instantly jealous of this sound too. Countless shoegazey bands, both past and present (should the present wave be described as Shoegazi?), have tried to capture this sound. Those from the past will be envious while those from the present may now go back to college. Really, what this song does is fairly simple and is not as earth shatteringly profound as these words may suggest it is. However, we can be sure that the emergence of this melody was not simple as it took 20 years to arrive. Still, making the complex sound simple and the simple sound complex is another great trait to My Bloody Valentine that always left mere imitators seeming laboured in comparison.

‘nothing is’
Barring certain moments in ‘You Made Me Realise’ and ‘Feed Me With Your Kiss’, this is the most aggressive sound MBV have achieved yet. It’s a shortly held record as they surpass all three in the following track. For now though, this is altogether rather heavy with looped drums and everything else. This brings in the aggression that Loveless kind of lacked when compared with those earlier sounds. This marks MBV out as a band that could have got heavier, darker and closer to American alternative music. It’s a thrash and a highly enjoyable one. As another almost interlude, it seems that more than just a solitary track should follow it. Does the ending we are building to then point a way forward into new material? Could this happen in the not too distant future, maybe in 10 years or so?

‘wonder 2’
Another loop? Are we now under attack? It sounds that way as the “relentless helicopters” song kicks off and maintains its onslaught throughout its full 6 minutes.It feels like everything is speeding up and slowing down simultaneously. Is that possible? Vocals emerge, which rhythm are they supposed to follow for a cue? Well anyone ever work out the lyrics? This  is chaos. This does not sound like Third Eye Foundation, this is more primal. This is wonderful. Beautiful and, yes, relentless. Smooth and choppy like a large washing machine with helicopter blades. What on earth does that even mean? This would blow the listener away on large speakers and will be ferocious live. It already sounds like it needs remastering. Towards the end it gets even louder and the washing machine helicopter thing seems to transform into a plane and disappear over some magical horizon after its highly enjoyable bombardment. This wins back drone attack from the United States airforce in the name of music.

There, done it. Have tried to avoid references to shimmering/cascading cathedrals/towers of sounds. Sorry about the washing machine helicopter thing. I kind of did the summing up in the beginning. Of course it’s excellent, what more do people want? Over to you, Talk Talk and The La’s but best leave it alone reformed Stone Roses.