Here’s the thing, and this is embarrassing: I thought My Bloody Valentine, Bullet for My Valentine and Blood on the Dance Floor were all the same band. No, no, I know. I’ll pack up the blog and go home. I just never got around to finding out they were different things. Real talk. If you’ve never heard of them, “My Bloody Valentine” sounds like a glam metalcore band. They all have shirts in the Hot Topic bargain bin. Don’t blame me, blame the system.
As it turns out, My Bloody Valentine is a thing, and I am a sheltered man-child. But that’s okay, because while I’m feeling musically inadequate, I can let myself melt into the scuzzy, expansive ocean of sound that is m b v. The band’s third album, despite them being together longer than I’ve been alive, will make immediately clear the reason they are considered pioneers of shoegaze. Flavors of My Bloody Valentine’s ethereal rock trickled into bands as diverse as The xx and Sleigh Bells and The Twilight Sad; all of your favorite depression fuel and all of your speaker-ruining indie rock owes a debt of gratitude to the Dublin group.
Taken on its own merits, m b v deserves an introduction to your quietest moments of self-loathing. Also, it’s great at parties. Cloaked in mystery and spooky magic, first track “she found now” lays out a pattern of emotional nudity through lyrical economy. (Editor’s note: This sucker’s sad, but there ain’t no words.) Plenty of rough-hewn feedback wafts through layered guitars, cascading bass and Kevin Shields’ strung-out vocals. You’ll feel like you’re in “Trainspotting,” but you won’t see dead babies on the ceiling.
Foremost, m b v is stylistically consistent, brushing right up against monotony. Fortunately, monotony is kind of the point. The grungy “only tomorrow” will make you understand listless romantics (“Only tomorrow, the love comes easy/Want you to hear my each beating heart”). It’s best listened to while clicking through pictures of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. “who sees you” is a Smiths song swathed in torn denim and sprinkled with cigarette ash, while “if i am” uses Bilinda Butcher’s heroin heroine lilt to convince you you’re dying in broad daylight.
(And as a side note, yes, all of the songs were titled by e.e. cummings.)
The best part about m b v is that it’s universal, precisely because it’s so unknowable. I’m sure My Bloody Valentine wrote their songs about actual, tangible experiences. However, you’ll learn nothing more about the album’s themes by considering the lyrics. Those words, should you choose to look them up, because you will not be able to parse them through the mass of sound, are ciphers. Every song is an archetype of emotion — loneliness, love, dysfunction — and you’re free to appropriate it for your own experience. Listen. Internalize. Relate.
And half of the time, m b v dispenses with the pesky poetry altogether and devotes itself entirely to the sound; “nothing is” is just an avalanche of drum beats and guitars that sound like hammers on your eardrums. You want to feel the weight of the world on your shoulders? Through some reverb on top for good measure.
I’m a fraud. I’m literally the last person that should be reviewing a My Bloody Valentine album. With the disclaimer that I’m probably wrong about everything I just wrote, I’m glad that I now know that they are alternative rock pioneers and not bemulleted scene kid weirdos stuck in 2007 or a band that’s friends with Seether. So, be happy for me. Or, listen to m b v and be crushed under your own inability to connect with other people. It’ll be fun!
(1-9) It’s one of those.