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The Morning After: Two Thoughts Related to the New My Bloody Valentine Album

February 3, 2013

My-Bloody-Valentine-mbv

1.

One of the pleasures I took from writing about music was the joy in discovery. It could be a tiny detail that I missed over the first hundred plays of a song, or a close reading of a song that opened new possibilities in meaning. Sometimes, it came through a half an hour with my guitar on my lap trying to figure out the transitions from one chord to the next. The moment where I figured out something new often made the struggle to put words to paper (or words to Word, to be more accurate) worthwhile. It must stimulate the same part of my brain that drove me to take apart my parents’ Windows 3.11 computer in the mid-90’s – a desire to know something inside and out. This is my preferred mode of “criticism” as well – discovery rather than destruction – but that’s for another post entirely.

This isn’t a feeling I’ve felt with My Bloody Valentine, despite the hours of time I’ve spent with Loveless. Perhaps its Kevin Sheilds’ noted perfectionism or his elaborate effect pedal setup, or maybe it’s just the album’s layers of sound, but I approach an album like Loveless with appreciation rather than a desire to crack it open and figure it out. I wouldn’t call this approach passive (though Loveless was my favorite record to put on while grading papers at one point, but that was more an issue of familiarity and not being distracted by words. The first Sigur Ros album did this for me as well, and it’s maybe the only other record I approach with similar wonder). Rather, I feel immersed in the music. Where my normal approach to “get inside” a song might be to start figure out chord progressions or lyrical shifts, I feel consumed just listening to these sounds. I’m content to let the different sounds whir past me rather than dare try to disturb them. 

This is how I approached mbv, the long-awaited follow-up to Loveless. I sat at my computer with my headphones on and let the album play. Much like Loveless, I don’t have the desire to figure out how it ticks. I’m content to let it play and watch how it works. As expected, it’s immaculately produced; at different times, it’s crisp, heavy, languid, dreamy, and blunt. It dips in and out of song structures. When it starts to feel familiar, it turns toward noise and chaos in its final three tracks. People with more expertise (or dedication perhaps) will have insightful things to say about it, but for now I’m content to immerse myself in it.

2.

When the word started spreading that the album would be out tonight (this on the heels of Shields saying it was mastered in December, then a week or so ago saying it could be out in “2 or 3 days”), I got excited. It made me think back to the “old” sensation of rushing out to get a new album the day it was released after school (or during a break at work). The fact that the MBV webpage kept timing out like the old days of the web only solidified this “retro” feeling, albeit a nostalgia for a somewhat recent past.

This morning, however, I thought about it a little more and realized its release is more in line with 2013 than 2003 (or 1993). Despite the whispers of its existence, I knew nothing about it until about 5 PM yesterday. No single, no advance reviews, no advertising campaign. Even Radiohead’s In Rainbows, the natural analogue, had a week lead time from its announcement to its release. I wasn’t breathlessly awaiting this record the way many hardcore MBV fans were (largely because I’ve been mainly obsessed with Loveless as an album rather than the band in general), so I may be a slight anomaly. Instead, in a course of six or seven hours, I learned about, acquired, and digested a record without having to alter my Saturday night plans (save for digging out my headphones after going out for dinner, and staying up a little later than I might have otherwise). Ten (or more) years ago, we’d have had to wait weeks or months for an album like this to come out. Even Radiohead in 2006 made us wait a week. Instead, I’ve already started to digest a record that, as far as I was concerned, didn’t exist at this time yesterday. It’s not necessarily a positive (as anticipation can be a good thing) or a negative, just different.

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