01 Mar, 2013

My Bloody Valentine – “mbv”

mbvThe swaying taunting apathy in music that bewitched so many teenagers in the late eighties and early nineties has returned full swing this week.  After twenty years of being on hiatus, with vocals comprising of both a kick ass female and sultry male, the Irish alternative rock group, My Bloody Valentine, just released their fourth album, M B V, to the squealing delight of many patiently awaiting shoe-gazing fans.

My Bloody Valentine has matured so much. While they still retain that essential indie pop rock value that was slowly being established as the voice of youth during their pinnacle climb, they sound a lot cleaner, a lot more practiced.  M B V retains the hypnotizing vocals, monotonous drum sets, and volatile guitar rips that provided an escape to their fans during their heyday but they have polished the chords and vocals to give it a little more modern sheen. They sound more like Warpaint, Yo La Tengo, or even Alice Glass when she is playing her wistful self. Particularly in the fourth song on the album, “Is This and Yes,” does Bilinda Butcher sound quite similar to a cooing Glass in “Tell Me What To Swallow.”  Even with a more smooth croon, they still hold that nineties scratchiness that keeps us coming back for more nostalgic anesthesia.  The music of that time period was a bit sloppy and My Bloody Valentine possessed a combination of the brooding sound of Sonic Youth or Lush with the instrumental styling of Pavement or The Pixies but the group still couldn’t decide what they wanted to be yet.  After a twenty year break, they have chosen to mold themselves into a more dream pop, less grunge pop group. Lightening the male vocals and the grungy “Amen break” present in a lot of their songs, Butcher’s silken, dreamy voice really shines through in this album. The singer had previously mentioned that she was awoken at about 7:30 am to start practice and she is “usually trying to remember what I’ve been dreaming about when I’m singing.”   Her sleepy serenade especially works with the group’s new sound.

Since their inception in 1987, where they sounded more like just movie background music (especially with Dave Conway leading the way), they have grown quite a bit. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the new album and how a part of me pined for the simplicity of dirty nineties sounds.  This new album is slower, calmer, and more ambient, with less long guitar rips and just enough slow drums to remind us where they came from. Some of the songs, particularly “If This and Yes” and “She Found Now,” actually moved me. It seems M B V is catering to their adult fans; those that have grown gazing at their sneakers with them and those, like me, who are just discovering them.  The songs can be a bit slow at times but maybe that’s just the impatience of our musical upbringing so used to drum machines and electronic samples we don’t always wait for the instruments to pick up speed. Coming back more into the sound they began to cultivate in 1991’s, Loveless, they dusted some of the old tools they used, added more contemporary instrumentals, and more of Butcher’s wistful warbling to make the album really pop. I’m quite charmed by My Bloody Valentine and look forward to seeing their progression.

Review by Sarah Gawricki.

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