To say that expectations of My Bloody Valentine were high leading up to the release of its album m b v is not entirely true. Yes, the band had set the bar incredibly high with its first two albums, 1988's Isn't Anything and 1991's Loveless, but after 22 years of waiting for new material, My Bloody Valentine fans would have been satisfied with just about anything.
Thankfully, the band has not experienced any atrophy. Instead, it created an album that stands proudly alongside its best work.
M b v was a labor of love for lead vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields, and it is reflected in the music. Recording had been ongoing for years, so it is clear that the nine songs that made the final cut compose the album he envisioned.
Musically, m b v is surprisingly modern while retaining the trademark elements of the band's first two albums. The layered guitars and ethereal sound should be familiar to fans of the bands Beach House and Washed Out.
That My Bloody Valentine could make such a relevant record without even tweaking its formula is a testament to its significance to rock music. While grunge bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam get credited with “saving” rock from hair metal, shoegazing has had the most discernible influence on modern rock.
The genius of m b v is its cohesiveness despite the eclectic nature of its parts. When taken as a whole, the songs flow into one another seamlessly. The dreamlike opening track “She Found Now” is markedly different form the gruff, percussion-heavy “Who Sees You” even though the two are only separated by one song.
In listening to the album, however, the sequence of songs feels like a natural progression. The strategy behind the track listing is apparent, with “New You” offering the listener a respite before the towering “In Another Way.”
My Bloody Valentine's beginnings as a marketable pop band definitely inform the style of songwriting on m b v. While the instrumentations are anything but pop, Shields is not afraid to compose lighter, easier songs such as the track “Is This and Yes,” which comes closer to contemporary fare than anything else the band has ever done.
M b v is one of the most rare things in music: an album completely crystallized in time. It is just as vital as Isn't Anything and Loveless, and for the same reasons: the music is unlike anything else. For many bands, a lack of progression can be a severe pitfall. With My Bloody Valentine, it has turned out to be its greatest asset.