Kevin Shields left our lives for all intents and purposes back in the early 90s. He would occasionally pop up on our radar in the form of threats of releasing a follow-up we never thought would actually appear. Also, from time to time, Shields would leave the womb-like comfort of his studio for guest spots with people like Patti Smith – but still, no album would ever appear. Sometimes the best gifts are those you wait years for, and mbv feels like what we’ve been waiting for all along. If you’ve worshipped at the altar of Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine, you will not be disappointed with this 22-years-in-the-making offering.
“She Found Now” hits with waves of lush distortion that take you away to a warm place. A place in the distant past, yet also a place not yet found. The warmth enraptures you until you’ve been lulled into an almost drugged daze, yet no narcotics are required for this buzz. “Only Tomorrow” is layered with the same fuzzy and unearthly guitars that have haunted our dreams and echoed in our headphones since the band released Loveless. Ghostly vocals wade the sonic waters, barely. Bilinda Butcher lays tethered whispers into the ribbon mic, planting seeds of wishes and desires, knowing full well they will die in the soil. Pop music never sounded this tortured and lovely.
“Who Sees You” is rock n’ roll for the disenchanted. It’s the soundtrack to peeking behind the curtain and seeing the true mechanics of life itself. It’s learning how magic goes from something otherworldly to mere sleight-of-hand. Shields removes the wool from our eyes to show us fractured beauty. The riff’ is a twisted melody run through a mile-long pedal chain, with Shields’ voice functioning as not a centerpiece, but as another twisted melody within the DNA strand of what has been dubbed shoegaze. (I call it rock n’ roll – through the looking glass.) “Is This and Yes” is both the question and answer. The waiting period between wondering who you are and the moment of true identity. The song’s pensive spirit is displayed in its patient arrangement, leaving us wondering when the next wave of distortion will hit – and when it never does, both relief and disappointment stare you in the eye. Butcher delivers the news like a siren calling from some non-existent plain. We gladly open our ears to her. “If I Am” is another question hidden as a statement. That familiar shuffle rhythm baked under a layer of melancholic guitar haze, Butcher giving us words that are not quite audible, as if she is singing the chord changes in sighs instead of words. Masking a sadness with beautiful haze – as if watching the last sunrise she’ll ever see. “New You” is filling the airwaves and blaring through earbuds everywhere, off in that alternate universe where things happen that are supposed to happen. In this universe, it will remain a certain few’s beautiful little secret. Popular to those with truly open minds. Beautiful to those that have truly experienced beauty.
“In Another Way” wakes us from the lull of sleep. It makes those synapses pop once again, but in a different, more dangerous way. Guitar lines, jagged and sharp, intertwine with a voice locked into a melody under the chaos. Then a synth and guitar create a noise somewhere between a bagpipe and car horn that temporarily pulls us from the manic pace. This is Kevin Shields’ bread and butter. This is what he does best – chaos and beauty, wrapped in a sonic structure that resembles a house of cards that you keep thinking will collapse, yet never does. “Nothing Is” beats us into submission with what resembles jungle music looped and run through a Marshall stack at the volume of the Gods. “Wonder 2″ starts with a sound resembling an aircraft flying over, then underneath an organ appears over a breakbeat that appears to be transmitted through a blown speaker. Soon, layers upon layers of guitar creep in and throw off our equilibrium, sounding as if four different songs are playing at the same time. It’s a fitting finale to a 22-years-in-the-making album.
If Loveless never did anything for you then take heed, gentle listener. If you listened and never got what was so special about all that noise, then I don’t think mbv is going to make a believer out of you. But if you hold My Bloody Valentine and their unique way of creating woozy, hazy and harsh sonic melancholy in high regard, please come inside. If you let Loveless soak into your skin and your DNA and will always get chills whenever you hear songs like “To Hear Knows When,” “Come In Alone” and “Sometimes,” then mbv is certainly the record you’ve been waiting for. It’s definitely the record I’ve been waiting for.