But We Were There: Why The Quality of the New My Bloody Valentine Album Kind of Doesn’t Matter

It’s a Saturday night, and I’m still at home, sitting in my PJs, listening to music I bought at my FYE’s going-out-of-business sale, and playing around on my laptop while my roommates do similar things (video games, read, etc). Unless all my social media sites are bullshitting me, this seems like the norm tonight; no one’s doing a lot of anything–I blame the snow and cold for that. It seems like a pretty chilly and chill night to most people. At least in real life. Online, it feels like half the internet’s abuzz with the news.

The new My Bloody Valentine album, mbv, is supposed to be out. Right now.

That’s the news all over Twitter and every music site that had someone log on to update on Saturday nights (even Billboard has it on their front page). And every news brief I’ve read about it has a tone of suppressed joy and disbelief. So far, Stereogum has my favorite, which ends on the note of “2013 we did it y’all”. And yet, even though I clicked on the link to http://www.mybloodyvalentine.org 8 minutes after it went live on the band’s Facebook page, the site crashed. A few hours later, and we’re all still looking at error messages, waiting for good news.

(Note: If you’re already familiar with My Bloody Valentine and Loveless, skip the next three full paragraphs.)

I should take a few steps back to explain why and how mbv has become the biggest album of the year without anyone hearing it. My Bloody Valentine is an Irish shoegaze band (shoegaze meaning “lots of heavily effected guitars making a ton of noise”) made waves with their debut album Isn’t Anything in 1988, but it wasn’t until 1991’s Loveless that they became the legends they are today. For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip the details of Loveless’ long and storied production–you can get the gist of it here, even by the section’s length alone–but suffice to say that the record’s creation took a toll on band leader (and perfectionist) Kevin Shields. In the end, the album involved a small fleet of producers and mixers (although Shields himself ended up doing most of the production), 19 studios, thousands of dollars, and three years to make.

The overwhelming response is that the time was worth it.

If you’re reading this section, I’m assuming you haven’t heard Loveless, and all this sudden fanfare for a band that’s been out of rotation for the last 22 years is damn near inconceivable. But Loveless has become not just a classic, but the classic. It’s an immersive, utterly gorgeous record that I fell in love with at the first listen. I could gush forever about it, but click here to listen to a few songs from the album, with “Sometimes” being my favorite.

And that was the last everyone heard. There was talk of recording in 1996, but nothing came of it. Since 2008, Shields has got the band back together, and said that they’re recording “something”, often with a sketchy idea of a release date, but nothing leading up to it. No single, no hard date set, nothing. Then, last week, he made an offhand remark about the album being out “in a few days”, followed up with an announcement on Facebook today that it would be up “later”. And here we are.

(The rest of you are welcome back!)

I can already guess how the next few weeks will pan out. Most publications–hell, including this one–will cram in every listen to the album they can this weekend, with the reviews starting to pour in Monday morning. Some of the stodgier publications will wait until Tuesday to roll out the red carpet (sorry, Coheed). Initial reviews will extremely analytic, but focusing on the album’s positives, both real and perceived. The initial fan reaction will be split far and wide, everything from “As good as Loveless” to “They should have broken up”. A few weeks out, the heavy backlash will start to set in, and claims of “overrated” and “Waste of time” will come up, as well as creative ways of slamming whatever the album sounds like. At the end of the day, we’ll be left with mbv for better or worse, just as it is.

But, this has gone so far beyond what mbv sounds like. Whenever you find a new band with an album that blows you away, the first instinct is to look for more, to find more of that magic in every song you hear. With My Bloody Valentine, the great tragedy was that you often got your introduction through Loveless, only to find that there was no more (fans of the TV show Firefly, you know the exact feeling I’m talking about). But now, there is more music, and that wish, or that promise, of there being more music, has been fulfilled.

And above that, this release blindsided everyone in a way that album releases never get to anymore. Everyone from the bigwigs at Pitchfork, to myself, to Todd and Suzie on Facebook are on the same page: there’s no leak, no album stream on NPR, no straight-to-SoundCloud link, no promo copies or reviews. This is as close as skipping second bell to go to Sam Goody as we’re going to get. In a rapidly more fracturing music scene, mbv‘s release is a rare communal event, and for people used to keeping themselves and their music isolated, that unity is a strange and kind of wonderful event that transcends the actual music.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t believe I got an error message this time.

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About bgibs122

I enjoy music and music culture; I hope you do, too.
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