The degree to which this record will be dissected, it's every nook and cranny disembowelled by geeks like myself (and let's be frank, yerself n'all, if you're reading this review) over the coming months and years may prove to be almost as entertaining as the artefact itself. Has a record ever been subject to such a ridiculous burden of expectation? Has a fan base ever before so manically melted into their collective QWERTY's as this one did in the small hours of 3 February? Apart from the Beleibers. And with the devolvement of the traditional LP into a haze of 1's and 0's, could it possibly ever happen again?
It's unlikely, and these are all garlands that swing around the neck of this, certainly unique, record.
Apart from a few early bolters, there's a been a collective effort by reviewers to not pounce on m b v and to try and let the quality of the record fend for itself above the weight of its occasion. For it not to have been brutally disappointing after the 22 year long wait since Loveless would have been an achievement in itself, but with repeated plays the dawning realisation that its actually brilliant is utterly remarkable.
It starts with a sly wink, you press play and the first track just sort of rolls into being, "Oh HAI guys, we've just been over here the whole time", unearthly guitars start to spar via the speakers over a lumbering rumble that certainly grounds itself in the parameters of Loveless but more as a jumping off point than a re-tread.
We move on and things get more urgent, the drums have none of the clinical precision of before, and clatter and thunder under a turgid riff, Bilinda Butcher coo-ing over the top before a wicked, so dumb it's amazing, solo kicks in. As the record carries on its fair to say the first half of the LP certainly operates in the same ballpark as the music My Bloody Valentine were making before their hiatus, but its churlish to condemn it for that. Many plundered and imitated, but no-one else ever sounded like this.
The games commence though when stepping back and trying to figure out the genesis of the record. For my tuppence worth, I think the album charts a chronological path from the band they were in 1991 to the future music the LP tails off with. I also reckon most, if not all, the LP was recorded relatively recently. The stunning production belies itself immediately, studios of the 90's just couldn't capture sound this well, and from the get go, beneath the maelstrom, the voices have that slight weathered thinness that age brings. Can't wait for the Behind the Music.
I'm loath to even describe much of the rest of the album, simply because every listen is leaving me a little more in awe, and I don't want to try and pin it down yet. That said I'll throw in my slack jawed reaction to last tune wonder 2. On my first listen to m b v I was trying to rock my six-month-old son back to sleep and found myself dozing on the couch with him. This... thing... just started bellowing out of the speakers and my half asleep head just burst. Utterly disorientating and overwhelming, if the previous 40-odd minutes hadn't reminded you who's boss the point is emphatically made now. And, like the LP just falls into place at the beginning, it similarly just falls out of place at the end.
No sudden stop, no fade out, they just disappear again...
This post originally appeared on Irish music site www.thumped.com
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