My Bloody Valentine have released "MBV," their first album since 1991.
Here's the tracklisting...
Some of the album sounds about exactly like what you'd expect from them, like "Only Tomorrow"...
...while some of it, like "If I Am," is a bit more pop...
...and some of it pushes in a new direction, like "Is This and Yes," which is based around a simple, gorgeous keyboard drone.
It's a pretty trippy record, to say the least.
When the news broke, everyone freaked out and this happened the second the band put it on sale:
This is a pretty big deal for indie fans. The band's 1991 album "Loveless" is one of the most acclaimed and influential rock records of the '90s, and has come to define the "shoegazer" subgenre.
Hundreds of bands have tried to emulate the sound of Loveless, but no one has ever quite captured the magic of the record. It's a singular achievement – loud but serene, introverted yet sensual. It's the type of record that needs to be experienced to be understood, and it's very hard to describe without resorting to poetic language. James Hunter did a pretty good job of explaining why it's interesting on a purely formal level in his essay about the band in the Spin Alternative Record Guide, which came out in 1995:
What My Bloody Valentine did reads simply enough on paper: the band foregrounded accompaniment. Lead parts went begging. The usual verse-chorus-verse outing was put on hold. Rhythms loomed high above sung melodies, guitar lines went underwater, synths bloomed improbably large, and vocals rearranged the furniture as if in a perfectly contented trance.
The cultural critic Steven Shaviro wrote extensively about the band and Loveless in his book Doom Patrols, and focused on the sexual aspects of their music, which is often overlooked despite being pretty essential to its appeal.
Their sound works not so much to ironize performatively upon those old gender binaries, as to fritter them away into inconsequence. You can no longer tell which traits are male, and which are female. Aggressive noise and ethereal lyricism, for example, are not hard and fast opposites, but delicately different degrees along a single continuum. You slip so quickly and easily from one into the other, without even noticing the transition. And so with all the attributes that we ascribe on the basis of gender.
Kevin Shields, the main creative force behind My Bloody Valentine, has been promising a followup to Loveless since the mid-'90s. The band actually signed to Island Records in 1992, and Shields used his advance from the contract to build his own studio. Unfortunately, the band later discovered that the mixing desk in the studio did not work, so they lost a huge amount of money and wasted a great deal of creative effort, which led to what Shields would later describe as a "semi-meltdown."
Despite the setbacks, Shields kept working on new music through the '90s. He scrapped all of it, including a whole body of work that was apparently strongly influenced by drum and bass dance music. My Bloody Valentine was effectively defunct in this time, but Shields was an active member of Primal Scream. His greatest contribution to that band was a cut called "MBV Arkestra (If They Move, Kill Em)" off their excellent 2000 album XTRMNTR.
Shields has spent much of the past 20 years promising a follow up to Loveless, or explaining why it has taken him so long to complete a new album. The strangest story, in which he and singer Bilinda Butcher were overwhelmed by taking care of a large number of chinchillas, is detailed in Mike McGonigal's 33 1/3 book about Loveless.
Kevin and Bilinda had a full-on chinchilla problem. Bilinda recalls that they had as many as 20 of the critters at once, but Kevin goes to pains to point out that 14 chinchillas was the max (because, of course, 20 chinchillas is crazy but 14 is nothing at all.) "They lived in this big room together, and the boys were separate from the girls," Bilinda laughs. "I had a very beautiful pedigreed chinchilla, and her husband was from a pet shop – he was actually the one who sort of set the whole chinchilla thing off, his name was Softy. It was quite funny because he was quite the opposite; he used to come and nibble your ankles and was a bit vicious, but from being pent up, you know?"
Shields managed to get away from the chinchillas long enough to record a few solo songs for the Lost In Translation soundtrack, which came out in 2003.
There were rumors in the late '90s on through the '00s that Shields had basically lost his mind, but he's talked that down a bit in interviews over the past decade. This is what he told The Guardian in 2004:
"I was pretty crazy, for sure," he says, "and it was a very manic, overdrive kind of state, but it never got out of control. I can look after myself better than most people; I'm self-contained. I just didn't do what I didn't want to do. And I got away with it. When you keep on getting away with it year after year, you think you can just live like that. And you can. I wouldn't work. I wouldn't get up till late afternoon. I watched a lot of shit films."
Shields reunited My Bloody Valentine in 2008 for their first concerts since the early '90s.
My Bloody Valentine will be touring in support of MBV through this year. So far, they have announced three U.K. dates.
March 9th at Barrowlands in Glasgow, Scotland
March 10th at the Apollo in Manchester, England
March 12th at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, England