After almost twenty two years, the wait is finally over. Rumour had been rife since 2007 that the release of a new My Bloody Valentine album was imminent. Since then, the band have played a number of live shows, released re-mastered versions of their back catalogue, and fuelled speculation that the follow up to their landmark Loveless album was on the way. Loveless remains arguably the most influential independent album of the last 20 years - it is difficult to quantify the impact and influence this one album had on the alternative music scene. Its release spawned a host of imitators and it is still regularly cited by music critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.
And so at 11.58pm on the 2nd February 2013, the much anticipated mbv was released through the bands website with little or no fanfare. Was it worth the wait? Unquestionably, yes - mbv successfully reclaims their oft imitated sound as their own while offering a tantalising glimpse of a new and pioneering direction for the band. It is a reminder that nobody has ever really got close to successfully imitating the glorious noise they made and as such, is defiantly and uniquely a My Bloody Valentine album, closed off from all influences during the time they were away.
The opening trio of songs maintain a direct lineage to the Loveless era -so we get the familiar blurred and woozy strum of distorted guitars, the vaguely narcotic, dreamy vocals buried deep in the mix and the deceptively beautiful melodies submerged beneath hazy washes of the sweetest noise.
The heady swoon of 'only tomorrow' stands out as an early highlight, parachuting the listener right back to 1991 when My Bloody Valentine were in their pomp; 'who sees you ' continues in the same vein, reassuringly familiar, like the band have never really been away. Tracks four to seven mark a slight shift in emphasis, stopping off in a halfway house between the old and potentially new incarnation of MBV.
But it is the final three tracks of this album that will provoke the most discussion among fans as they undoubtedly herald a potentially new and perplexingly different direction for a band that have never been afraid to push the boundaries. 'nothing is' is a punishing three and a half minutes of a repeated, bludgeoning riff and closing track 'wonder 2' is sonically bewildering -a skittish beat underpins a song that hurtles along at a frenetic pace sounding for all the world like it was recorded in a wind tunnel.
mbv was never likely to recapture shock and awe that Loveless delivered some twenty two years ago but in many ways it exceeds what we could reasonably expect after such a protracted absence. It is challenging, daring and displays no signs that the intervening years have blunted the bands creative edge - in short, it is defiantly MBV to its very core.
Review by Paul Page