Kevin Shields speaks, addressing a heckler directly at his band’s first gig since 2009: “Um, maybe in two or three days.” This informal announcement regards the release of a new My Bloody Valentine record. The internet lights up, rock‐‘n’‐roll nerds the world over lose their collective cool and everyone braces for impact. I, for one, have been fooled too many times, and while I am optimistic, I’ll pretty much believe it when I hear it. The context: Shield’s Valentines haven’t put out an album since their 1991 record Loveless which is often noted to be a watershed of dreamy guitar music, and despite regular discussion of new material over the years the band has been, save scattered compilation appearances and some recent live shows, largely inactive. Hearts have been broken too many times over this. Two or three days pass and still no new Valentine, but within a few more days the new record titled mbv actually drops and I’ll do you a favor by sparing you my particular saga of having to reevaluate my conception of truth and falsity in the context of this weird little British rock band.
In essence, what this left‐field comeback album sounds like is what it would sound like if a bunch of guys who used to be in My Bloody Valentine were tasked with putting out the new My Bloody Valentine record, maybe most of which was actually written or recorded ten or fifteen years ago, and guess what band it sounds like? Always changing and innovating in their short career, Shields and company were known for never staying in the same place, ripping through rockabilly, punk and post‐punk, jangle pop, their own distinct brand of guitar noise and everything in between. My Bloody Valentine is feasibly the only band that could get away with sounding like My Bloody Valentine without fingers being pointed, but they are also the only band that could be expected to reinvent themselves on a regular basis. Ultimately, they won’t be spared ridicule for either sounding too much like themselves or for jumping off the boat and being too weird after a twenty-year hiatus. At times, they sound like themselves on this record, turning out some stylistic but relatively unadventurous wispy pop songs, but in the last three tracks they kick out the jams and do some new things, rendering themselves all but unrecognizable. The age old rumors of Shields experimenting with Drum & Bass even come to fruition here, and there is still an overall feeling that these guys could continue to surprise us.
One element that has remained constant throughout the Valentines’ oeuvre is the volume factor; these songs scream to be cranked up so that they can be more closely inspected, and a key element of the MBV mythology is the band’s painfully loud live performances, of which there are currently many slated in Europe, East Asia and Australia. Like its predecessors, mbv sounds completely different at a loud volume than at a quiet one, and better at that. Considering Shields’ restless producing, there are bound to be some minute but significant format differences as well. Fans will have to wait until February 22nd for the CDs and vinyl to ship out, and rest assured that when they deliver, the cognitive dissonance is going to balloon when what was once considered a distant, unlikely possibility has become a physical release, already an anomaly in 2013. It’s easy to get distracted by what this thing is.