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Track-By-Track

My Bloody Valentine's mbv Track By Track By Ned Raggett
Ned Raggett , February 4th, 2013 04:36

Ned Raggett stays up all night hitting refresh to bring you his perspective on mbv... i.e. it sounds like being hit on the head with a shovel and falling into a well half filled with honey

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Well, that took a while. And that was just the website. Thanks, tip your waitstaff.

Thing is, even after eight million Twitter jokes, meme GIFs, Facebook posts and more within the space of a few hours, even when I finally had completed an order and the download was arriving, some part of me still wasn't quite believing it. A couple of people had thought that maybe it was a hack and a joke, and while I'd said "They can't have done that to both the Facebook site and the actual webpage," I half thought "Well... maybe they could."

I can't say I'm glad it took this long but I was thankful that the person I was who had written back on my old webpage in 1997 something like "HURRY UP AND RELEASE THE DAMN ALBUM KEVIN" was long past. Listening to the album patiently and with no sense of expectations beyond trying to judge it on its own terms turned out to be rather freeing and pleasant. I pretty much felt I was never going to have that same first-time-hearing-'Soon' moment and I wasn't looking for it. That probably explains why I enjoyed it so much. I can sense the roots, the continuities and the later parallels from other acts. There's next to nothing that caused me a sense of utterly alien surprise and a lot of that has to do with how long I've been listening to things in general as much as My Bloody Valentine in specific. Yet at the heart of it all, m b v has something different, knotted and twisted.

Then I went to dinner with some friends and came back and gave a second listen, and here's my take on it all, track by track - with the hopes that the third listens and beyond will be different again.

'she found now' - I didn't expect the album to start with an equivalent of 'Sometimes', I admit, but that's what that feeling of heavy guitar shading calls to mind, only here with a bit of quick, crisper guitar parts in contrast rather than a soothing melody and a clearer lyric. It's not momentous and that's suitable, but it does feel like a welcome back where all of a sudden familiar parts are at play without actually sounding like any exact combination beforehand. The further soloing snaking in part way through isn't even that so much as an extra element, all creating a feeling of decentered free-floating warmth. If one of the chief complaints some give to Shields and his work is lack of specificity, lyrical and musical, in favor of an all-encompassing disorientation, then this is evidence for that. But it's not a complaint.

'only tomorrow' - And from Kevin Shields to Bilinda Butcher. Her role remains something terribly underrated, by yours truly for a start but not the end; the band would not be the band without the exact lineup we know (which, for all the interruption in activity, has remained near constant for almost three decades after the early departure of David Conway). When what sounds like her vocal suddenly twists into a rising swoop that shudders and disappears, followed by an extended guitar part that steps and skips rather than chugs, light on its feet, it's a treat - and the more so when the same swoop returns her to the mix, then again takes her away. For all that the pace of the song is something that seems to lumber, it's again shaped in the overall gauze that you hear guitars clang and react, cutting across each other while the warmth remains. Yet while that pace doesn't change, it seems an even slower swirl as it goes, a careful exhaling.

'who sees you' - Colm O'Coisoig has a solo drum moment at the start, and once again a feeling of callback because 'Only Shallow' almost started the same way. But the feeling is even hazier and slower here - and here's where a little chin-scratching begins, because it feels like an extension of 'only tomorrow' rather than a distinct new song, though with Kevin doing the singing. If the insular nature of Loveless remains one of its calling cards, at the same time there was variety right from the start of its three songs, making m b v initially seem too uniform, perhaps almost too much of a pastiche. Yet the guitar continues to slow and sprawl woozily, the soloing a downbeat surge that strains gleefully through molasses, and while the fact of it is again unsurprising, the feel, however familiar, thrills. The shock of the new is far from present, the thrill of reacting to that kind of sculpting of feedback and texture remains - and when the soloing at the end really ramps up into something trebly and reactive, something clicks just a little more, right down to the sudden ending.

'is this and yes' - Suddenly - finally? - there's a full change. Just keyboards and distant drums, on the face of it, though who knows what is creating all those tones in a gentle serene space-pop fashion. It's no short interstitial moment either, there's nothing like that on here. Bilinda takes the lead again, voice and instrumental tones often blending as she softly but keenly delivers whatever the words might be. At three minutes her vocals begin to double, a little moment of shock that cycles back a couple of times, all while the instruments continue in their previous course, though maybe with a few more meditative high tones. More than a few comments elsewhere talked up post-rock, Stereolab... perhaps Broadcast if you like. But in its own path, its own place.

'if i am' - Bilinda on lead again, and a return to a full arrangement, but this time building off of the song before it rather than simply continuing it. Wah-wah guitar as gauzy pulse behind layers of strums, more percussion moments from Colm appearing at points too. For an album centrepiece, five of nine songs in, it's a combination of serenity - voices suddenly approaching a late sixties Beach Boys feeling more than before, or at least more than immediately apparent than earlier - with soft tension and roiling, bubbling activity. All this and it suddenly ends on a last shuffle of drums and what sounds like a quick rewind.

'new you' - If there was an implied funk beforehand, all of a sudden Deb Googe's bass really brings it to the fore here, standing out more clearly than earlier, at least it seems - and when it all strips down to Colm's drums at a minute in and at points thereafter, that reminder that Kevin had taken in hip-hop by the late 80s recurs, even if there's now a huge distance between past and present in that realm. Bilinda's singing is clear if soft, the guitar is a cheerful, chugging sprightliness, tremolo in full effect as is always perfectly appropriate. There are no cotton candy feelings here, it's meant to be - contextually, at least - wired and tight. A quick drum fill from Colm at one point just raises a smile, it feels engaging.

'in another way' - Saxophone? Screeching tones? Rumbling drums? There really hasn't been sonic violence at all and then suddenly here it is in a rough mess, not a sprawling one - again, Colm keeps things locked down on that front, however the drums sound - but not a polite one either. Another Bilinda lead, sudden shifts in guitar tone and style, drums suddenly galloping a bit and then not appearing to, everything just a little out of phase with everything else or seeming to be. Strange to say, given some random references and recalls about Big Country I'd heard this weekend, hearing what almost sounded like a guitar/bagpipe moment here and there was a touch bemusing as well. More than some of the songs, the basic arrangement repeats itself for a while as the song goes, but again, no complaints, at least if you're me.

'nothing is' - Now things fire up from the start and quickly stomp along, a joyous kick in the quick drumming and focused skittering, live-wire riffing, almost like it's MBV out on the range. MBV goes cowpunk, there's an idea, and I've heard stranger. Even more enjoyable, it just doesn't stop having started up. Almost four minutes of it, no overt variation, no vocals, it just is happily its own bit of send-it-up-and-along exultance. As a penultimate track it's a lovely touch, a way to herald the end of it all - at least for now.

'wonder 2' - Said end. It starts, and continues, with a noise that sounds a bit like one of those planes a friend of mine said MBV live reminded him of 1992: like a sky filled with nothing but jet planes over and over. I presume it's coincidence. Kevin once more on vocals and it all sounds just strange enough, to the point where I have to stop and restart it just so I can think a little more cohesively about it. It's still got something of that understated focus that's always at the heart of practically every MBV song - there's never not a core melody, however simple or sublimated. But add in the rising/falling jet noise, back and forth guitar parts like a sine wave, endless rising arrangements, and it's down to just that psuedo-jet noise, quick percussion that suddenly makes me wonder if this is the only ghost of that supposed jungle-friendly work they'd been doing in 1994 or so, then a stop, a bit of fade and... that's it.

On a second listen, even more than the first, I wouldn't be surprised if this was something done just in the past year rather than over any amount of time beforehand. It could just be a marker of a stage of creation, a outlying signpost to a heck of a lot more, or given everything we know or want to imagine about MBV and Shields in particular it could well be the end result of a long, long process.

But I'm happy with it. Not bowled over, not sent to another dimension, not stopped in my tracks. But I didn't want to be, not now. Perhaps I was lucky - in chasing that similar hit I got from MBV and always wanted where I could find it, maybe I burned out over the years and refocused, maybe I found what I wanted in all kinds of music and a lot more. I don't need the neurons scrambled so long as there would be something there I could enjoy and get my teeth into a bit. And so it proves.

Anyway next time... run some stress tests first. And get more server space.

To buy m b v visit MyBloodyValentine.org

Chad
Feb 3, 2013 9:57am

I've just finished my second listen. My ears and body are experiencing pleasure overload. This will be the best album of the year BY FAR, maybe even for the 2010s.

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Adam
Feb 3, 2013 10:26am

On to my second listen and loving half the tracks immediately. Mainly the opening couple of opening tracks and then the last three. The rest will take a little more time. Anyone else notice that the album's dropped just before Tinnitus Awareness week. Coincidence? I think not http://www.tinnitus.org.uk/taw2013

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aaron.
Feb 3, 2013 11:33am

In reply to Chad:

Less than 8 hours after the album drops and you're already declaring an 'album of the decade' award. There's a lot of measured and objective discourse on the Interwebs about this release, isn't there?

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Phil Regan
Feb 3, 2013 12:17pm

When Loveless was released all those years ago I was disappointed. It had been hyped like crazy and ultimately could never live up to the album that bankrupted Creation tag. Though at least it was a better album than the crack-addled Happy Mondays one that bankrupted Factory.

Maybe because this one has had minimal hype surrounding it; a pre-Xmas message about finishing the new album, a comment during last weeks gig, and then last nights frenzied Facebook post and then an overloaded website, I'm not too disappointed. It's no better or worse than Loveless. And I'll listen to it a lot for a couple of weeks and then it'll get filed amongst the other various curiosities in my collection. It sounds alternately pretty, melodic, dreamy, whimsical, drab, overlong, stuck, in tune, out of tune, derivative, original, unoriginal and occasionally like their trademark Hoover sound. It definitely sounds like My Bloody Valentine though and for that I'm grateful. Haven't really moved on though have they?

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John Doran
Feb 3, 2013 12:27pm

In reply to Phil Regan:

This is an extremely good point... I hated Loveless when I first heard it.

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Riot Nrrrd™
Feb 3, 2013 12:40pm

In reply to Phil Regan:

"Haven't really moved on though have they?"

Neither have Dead Can Dance. They make their own music, immune to the pressures of present-day musical spacetime coordinates.

And thank fuck for that.

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SY
Feb 3, 2013 12:48pm

In reply to Riot Nrrrd™:

A home else notice at least 2 digital 'glitches' ?

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austy
Feb 3, 2013 1:46pm

awesome thing here is you can tell exactly what he learned from soundtracking Lost in Translation, and what he learned working with Curve and Primal Scream... and it was all very good..

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Jon
Feb 3, 2013 2:33pm

I don't think this could ever live up whatever I thought that the follow up to Loveless would be, but I'm glad it exists. It's an odd and slightly shocking experience to listen to new, good, MBV music.

My first listen was at incredible volume, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It took me several listens to Loveless for it to sink in, and I expect mbv to be the same. Right now it's made my day.

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todd
Feb 3, 2013 2:41pm

had about 5 or 6 listens now and i'm thoroughly enjoying it.

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Feb 3, 2013 3:15pm

I have 'is this and yes' on a loop, so beautiful!

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Feb 3, 2013 3:45pm

there was always a very good chance i was going to be disappointed with this, as loveless was one of those pivotal albums for me in my late teens.... but i'm loving it! it's been on repeat all day and just gets better with each listen.

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tannie
Feb 3, 2013 5:23pm

so relieved that this is actually really good. those last 3 tracks are brutal!

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Chad
Feb 3, 2013 5:26pm

In reply to aaron.:

To be fair, I wasn't geting my hopes up about this release. I wanted to, but I've been disappointed so many times about album releases that I kept my mind away from the thought that this could be great. You know what? I love this album A LOT. I won't go as far as to say that it is perfect because there obviously is no such thing as perfection in this sordid world. However, this is close enough to flawlessness for ME. I really don't expect anyone else to feel this way.

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Constantin
Feb 3, 2013 5:29pm

Too bad there will never be another Slowdive album. That's all I have to say.

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jim
Feb 3, 2013 5:43pm

In reply to Chad:

it has exceeded my expectations, but in no way does is surpass "hurry up we're dreaming" as the leading contender of the decade.

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Feb 3, 2013 6:30pm

I like how a review of one of the most anticipated albums of the year was interrupted to go to a dinner party.

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John Doran
Feb 3, 2013 6:57pm

In reply to :

To be fair, if you'd seen the photos of Ned's Peruvian food, you'd understand.

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Carpathian
Feb 4, 2013 10:35am

I loved all the previous MBV stuff all those years ago but with so much other stuff around these days the amount I've listened to it on a regular basis has progressively waned. I think that's help me with the new one. Hearing it made me realise that nobody in the intervening time had nailed exactly why I loved them before. Parts of the sound were lifted and appropriated, yes, but not that whole package that they had. More than happy with it and I'm actually glad it sounds like the 20+ years since then have had no bearing on it. Exactly what I wanted.

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Matthew K
Feb 4, 2013 11:41am

Someone pointed out that the title MBV is like VU, which was a compilation, the Velvet Underground purging themselves of songs which didn't become an album. Seems quite likely to me.

Rhythmically a boring album though, not like their older work in that respect. Several tracks are obviously built on a single rhythm loop, instead of drummed (Isn't Anything) or programmed with feel (Loveless). That further suggests these are one-off experiments rather than intended as a coherent album. Also -

- the songs don't form a stylistic whole
- there is the prominent sound of a tape rewinding between tracks, i.e. we are in the studio going through stuff on the shelf
- the title is a clear parallel to VU
- the sleeve art is the initials lightening a murky background image like "Another VU"
- there is no attempt to "integrate" tracks by crossfading / transitioning
- Shields' statement that it was made from things he'd worked on before and was "necessary"

There is some beautiful and wonderful stuff, but it's a purging of the vaults for an album that never gelled, exactly like VU. I'm deeply glad it came out, and in a way I like it more if it's not an artistic statement.

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James
Feb 4, 2013 4:28pm

In reply to Matthew K:

What you on about?

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Jeff
Feb 4, 2013 7:21pm

In reply to Matthew K:

If you're correct, that probably indicates that there is nothing else coming from MBV. A sad thought but probably true, in any event. I think that this is the album they've intended to release for over a decade.

No need for "The King of Limbs 2" style theories.

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Neil Linderman
Feb 5, 2013 12:03am

Regrettably, hardly any music from the past 15 years has impressed me to any extent. Loveless effectively destroyed music, alternative music specifically, because there could be no way of topping that; almost nothing has come anywhere near it, sonically or in terms of quality. So I wondered whether mbv could do anything for me... I love it. I think it's gorgeous in its dissonance, and it's exactly what I wanted, and what I expected (if it's even possible to imagine) from a follow-up to Loveless. Who Sees You and Wonder 2 are the standout tracks, both worthy of being highlights in anyone's back catalogue. It is a true My Bloody Valentine record, and worth the wait - Kevin & Bilinda don't sound as though their voices have aged two decades. I can't complain, and my biggest concern was whether it would tarnish their history in any way. It doesn't, and it's the greatest comeback LP ever & the finest record of this century. I'm eagerly awaiting listening to it on CD, although having waited 21.5 years, what's another few weeks?

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Andri
Feb 5, 2013 1:41am

In reply to Matthew K:

Agree with your assessment that this is a very boring album rhythmically.

And those jungle drums on wonder 2 - i find it to be incredibly annoying and does not add anything to the song.

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aaron.
Feb 5, 2013 5:02pm

In reply to Neil Linderman:

The greatest comeback record ever! The record of the century! Are you listening to those terrible latter-half tracks? The horrible and questionable mix-down on the final track? The pointless programmed drums? The irritating Lightning Bolt-lite instrumental break? 'in another way' is like annoyance transcribed into musical form. None of the melodies on this album even touch MBV's song-writing at their peak. The record of the century? This record is occasioning the hyperbole of the millennium.

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vanessa forbes
Feb 5, 2013 9:27pm

Because of my divorce I was forced to hand over my record collection to my ex. As a result I had lost my love for music due to the bitterness of losing my CD' & LP's which I considered to be my children. however, with this record by My Bloody Valentine, I realize I never stopped loving music! My Bloody Valentine's "mbv", Bob Mould's "Silver Age" I adore both of these albums!

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danmac
Feb 6, 2013 9:56am

For what it's worth, and that's probably not very much, I've never cared much for this band. Isn't Anything is pretty dull, Loveless has an intriguing surface sheen which ultimately dulls out, but this new one seems rather good. It's clearly using a much more sophisticated sound palette than Loveless which merits further listening and exploration. But it's just another album you know.

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Rooksby
Feb 6, 2013 11:01am

I absolutely hated the new album on first listen - it sounded exactly how i was expecting it to, i.e. a bunch of half-hearted, 20 year old Loveless cast-offs - but... I've found myself returning to it constantly over the last few days (I've played little else actually), & it's subtler nuances have begun to seep out. I'm not too impressed by the closing trio of tracks (& they are "tracks", rather than songs, aren't they?), but I'm enjoying the opening half dozen a lot.

One great thing about this album is it's relatively succinct duration. The temptation to completely clear out the archive & release a 70+ minute epic must've been v. tempting, but the decision to trim it down to the (ha) one side of a D90 was, on reflection, a good one, I reckon?

It could've used a lot more Colm on it though!

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W
Feb 6, 2013 12:15pm

I am finding this album very enjoyable. Admittedly, it did take a few listens, but it has opened itself up to me. It seems more complex than anything they have done before. I'm still trying to get my head around some of the song structures and melodies. No disappointment here.

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W
Feb 6, 2013 12:20pm

In reply to W:

and I think the closing three tracks are my favourites at this stage.

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EmperorClothes Esq.
Feb 6, 2013 5:26pm

In reply to aaron.:

My opinion is much closer to this than the other breathless comments. I will say though that m b v does make me want to listen to loveless again! (and I have.)

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Bird
Feb 7, 2013 11:19pm

In reply to Matthew K:

This is the best explanation yet.

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Chad
Feb 19, 2013 7:01pm

In reply to aaron.:

Who doesn't like a good hyperbole? I'm good about keeping my ecstatic comments to myself, but I just had to speak my mind with this record. All in all, thank you sharing your predictable backlash with us.

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Feb 24, 2013 12:55am

Not sure it's worth referring to the musicianship of the 'other' band members when they're probably not on it.

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dave
Mar 4, 2013 7:22pm

this is a dreadful album. why cant you all see/hear that?

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