Saturday, February 16, 2013
My Bloody Valentine - m b v
There was a 22 year wait for this album. I joked on facebook two weeks ago that a betting pool should open up on whether m b v would really be released that evening or not. I forgot about it and then listened to the first half of the album the next day and went to a Super Bowl party. I watched Beyonce perform her halftime show and I asked my friend hosting if he liked My Bloody Valentine (I know he likes much newer indie rock, but he is not generally known for liking all of the Our Band Could be Your Life bands, except for Sonic Youth perhaps, which is certainly in the direction of My Bloody Valentine...). He did not know about m b v, nor was he interested in how it might sound.
Oeuvre rule: I love My Bloody Valentine. See Concert Review (which still has one of the best pictures of a band I have ever taken, I think, because it looks like the cover of Loveless) and 50th Post Milestone in Anticipation of Concert. I have heard almost all of their music.
And this is one of the many things that sets MBV apart from other bands: you start with Loveless, you don't get it necessarily, but it's good--then you move onto Isn't Anything and reflect that it may be even better than Loveless, but don't exactly make this generally known because it might cause other people to think you don't "get" Loveless--you hear all of the old stuff (maybe not the stuff from Geek! or This is Your Bloody Valentine--getting into that 1985 stuff separates the hardcore fans from the obsessive fans)--and you are content to listen to Loveless or choice tracks from other releases from now until the end of time, and you expect Kevin Shields to keep teasing everyone that he is going to put out another MBV album soon and take everything he says with a grain of salt.
Until two weeks ago.
The closest analogue to this situation is the excitement that surrounded the release of Chinese Democracy. That album took 15 years to release.
This album took 22 years to release.
This album is much better than Chinese Democracy.
We don't know exactly what Axel Rose and Kevin Shields were up to during that period, but we know some details. Shields worked with J. Mascis (he played guitar as a member of "the Fog" on a few songs during the time that Dinosaur Jr.--a band highly responsible for the development of the MBV sound--was broken up). Shields worked with Primal Scream, apparently (I haven't listened to them enough to offer an opinion on it). And then there was Lost in Translation.
I saw Lost in Translation in December of 2003--but before I came back to the States for that, I heard the song "City Girl" in Paris. Another classmate and friend of mine recognized the extraordinary character of that song and he downloaded and we listened to it over and over and talked about how great it was and we wondered why something that seemed so effortless wasn't matched by anyone currently working.
A lot has changed since 2003. Dinosaur Jr. is back together (and have been very prolific and successful). Chinese Democracy was released. iPods and iTunes became de rigeur, and Compact Discs flirt with obsolescence. The Nirvana legend continues to generate income for Courtney Love. The Rolling Stones put out a new album. Weezer all but lost their former greatness. The White Stripes and the Strokes "saved" rock and roll; The Arcade Fire brought "majestic rock" to the masses and won Grammy Awards. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs became respected elder statesmen(persons?). R&B and Hip Hop came back in a bigger way than the "Outkast album" from that year could ever anticipate. Elliott Smith committed suicide (around the same time as "City Girl"). Lollapalooza and other music festivals (i.e Pitchfork) became cash cows.
People would shell out hundreds of dollars for festivals, now. Coachella could offer Morrissey $45 million (and purely vegan food vendors) to reunite the Smiths on their stage, and he would reject them, and he now flirts with retirement. David Bowie went away and is about to come back. Michael Jackson was about to come back, and he died in the process. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore broke up, and Sonic Youth's 32 year legacy remains a question mark. And then My Bloody Valentine came back in 2007. And then Pavement played reunion shows.
Rewind back to October of 2000, my senior year in high school, and my [ex-]friend Jon giving me Loveless, telling me not to listen to so much Smashing Pumpkins because Billy Corgan was really just ripping off this album. Listen to Jon speak at length about Siamese Dream--"it is exactly the same guitar sound!" Listen to all of the other bands Jon endorses--Minor Threat, Fugazi, Sunny Day Real Estate, Slint, the Velvet Underground, Cap'n Jazz--go to college, find other people that like the same bands and become obsessed along with them.
And then go to see My Bloody Valentine play alone because you don't have any friends in the city you're in--or at least any friends that want to shell out $50.
And then have m b v come out when you are in the waning days of your 20's.
Every review of m b v must have this personal element. To talk about the album itself seems like an afterthought. The first track sounds kind of boring. The second track reminds the listener that they are listening to MBV and that it is about to get awesome. The third track, "Who Sees You," is probably my favorite song on the album. It stands along with the best songs they have ever done. I personally find "Is This and Yes" to be one of the weakest songs on the album. "New You" and "In Another Way" blend into each other for me. One of them is super awesome and the other one is only really awesome. "Nothing Is" is often compared to "You Made Me Realise" and indeed is the most fun song to turn up really loud on the stereo and play guitar to, while "Wonder 2" is often considered a standout track, though I am usually worrying about what album to put on next by that point (or getting ready to go to bed).
You won't be reading this far unless you are already an MBV fanatic. You won't care about this album unless you are, and you probably won't be converted to MBV with the release of this album. That is one of the things about this band. It's unlikely they will play the Super Bowl next year. They're not a band for the masses, but they are one of the most popular "underground" bands in history.
With m b v their legend is complete. Nothing more need be said at this time.