Review of My Bloody Valentine’s new album, “mbv”

Just before midnight Feb. 2, My Bloody Valentine released their first album in 22 years to hordes of eager fans – so many fans that their website crashed only minutes after the release went live. The album, titled “mbv,” was released independently of any record label, so the band’s website is the only place the album can be acquired. “mbv” is currently available as a digital download, CD or vinyl. The band has also uploaded all nine tracks to YouTube for anyone to stream.

My Bloody Valentine is a well-known and well-respected band that was active in the late 80s and early 90s. For example, their 1991 album “Loveless” received copious praise from critics and listeners.  Many consider it among the greatest albums of all time, and it is frequently cited as 1991’s best album.

The band is recognized as one of the primary innovators of a subgenre of alternative rock now called “shoegaze.” This term comes from the propensity of musicians in this style to appear introspective and disengaged, often looking downward. Shoegaze music is characterized by the prominent incorporation of ambient noise, heavily distorted instruments and drone.

This is My Bloody Valentine’s third full-length release in their 30-year existence. Since “Loveless,” the band released a few stray cover songs, making “mbv” the first new material since 1991.  With the eminence of “Loveless” and the buzz surrounding the band’s reunion, My Bloody Valentine had a lot to live up to with this release.

Despite all the time away from the studio, My Bloody Valentine has not lost touch with the sound they are so well known for. Front man Kevin Shields delivers his vocals with the same melancholy tone and occasional piercing guitar melody.  This time, Shields starts off the album on a more somber note, with the heavy reverberation his fans know and love so much.  Within the first few seconds of the opening track, “She Found Now,” you can feel the characteristic droning landscape behind their music is as well constructed as in their previous works.

This album takes a turn toward long form songs more than their previous albums, which makes sense as some of the best songs from “Loveless” were longer.  For “mbv,” the average song length is over five minutes, with several songs around the six-minute mark.  And they make good use of the time: the second track, “Only Tomorrow,” is not only the longest song, but also the most powerful.

Much of “mbv” sounds quite a bit darker than “Loveless.” There are songs that certainly sound as if they would fit right into the 1991 album, most notably “New You,” which could be considered the record’s most accessible track.  The generally darker quality of the album shows a new direction My Bloody Valentine is exploring. Since they are no longer signed to a record label, they are free from the pressure to release any chart-topping singles or to be a commercial success.  The new sounds on “mbv” may represent more of what the band is comfortable with or what they really wanted to play all along.

“Wonder 2,” the final song on the album, makes it abundantly clear that this is a new My Bloody Valentine.  Everything that makes “mbv” unique – its darker atmosphere, its departure from catchiness and its overall strangeness – are emphasized with this closing song.  Shields has told the press that he has plans for new material after this album, so listeners can look forward to even more music out of My Bloody Valentine. His droves of fans are surely hoping it will come out sometime this decade.

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