Tag Archives: sonic cathedral

Give My Love to Kevin: the return of My Bloody Valentine

12 Feb

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Well, it actually happened… the follow-up to My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless” – released in 1991 and given a questionable remastering last year – is finally available. Nearly twenty-two years later, with no further warning than an aside by Kevin Shields at a recent Brixton Academy gig in which he replied to a lairy fan’s heckle about the likelihood of a new MBV platter within the forseeable future with a shouting of  “two or three days!”, something jumped upon by the digital music press. After all, after such a long wait – the hysteria which greeted The Stone Roses’ tardy follow-up “The Second Coming” soon turned to disappointment when it failed to live up to the lofty heights of its eponymous predecessor.

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And maybe it if this reference point we need to re-visit, to compare to the second coming (or the third coming, as “mbv” is – of course – the band’s third album “proper” when compendiums and reissues are ignored) of “My Bloody” (I distinctively recall annoying fans yelling “MY BLOODY!!” at the quartet’s memorable Rollercoaster gigs alongside Dinosaur Jr., The Jesus and Mary Chain and a pre-mega-fame Blur) especially when Madchester’s most infamous quartet (note I did say Madchester, not Manchester’s… obviously too many contenders for THAT title) rolled back into town for a series of triumphant reunion gigs last year.

Because, whereas the five years idled away between debut and (WARNING: irritating US music journalist word ahead) sophomore album the Roses built up an anticipation that couldn’t possibly be quenched by any album, by letting over an ENTIRE GENERATION go by between one much-loved (can I say “groundbreaking” yet?) album and the next – supposedly bankrupting Creation in his quest for a perfect sonic palette along the way – Kevin Shields replaced any possible whinges of “is THIS it?” with gasps of amazement that the album was actually being delivered at all. And as The Stone Roses themselves saw when their surprisingly successful return (I mean critically, any Roses reunion was obviously bound to be a star-studded sell-out) a real long absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

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Like anyone who remembers the hazy crazy days of shoegaze in the early 1990s with half an eye on the internets, I watched the build-up to the “album drop” on Twitter. In real time. Will it, won’t it… some people were floating the idea that midnight Saturday/Sunday would be as good a time as any, a bit like when the megastores (RIP) used to open at midnight for the new Madonna album or whatever, and sure enough at the stroke of midnight mybloodyvalentine.org sprung into life.

Or rather, for most people, it didn’t. Tweets began to fill my timeline that “Kevin Shields has broken the internet” and a few die-hard fans began to whine in a way eerily reminiscent of those let down by the technology when trying to purchase Kraftwerk tickets a few weeks previously. I managed to get on to the site after refreshing lord-knows-how-many times, when it crashed as soon as I clicked a button. Then I saw the album had been uploaded to YouTube… and then I decided to call it a night.

But next morning Mary Anne Hobbes blasted a medley of the whole album over the BBC 6Music airwaves and I knew that I had to purchase it, and preferably on vinyl as mp3 probably wouldn’t do 22 years of sonic tweaking justice. Plus there was an LP + CD + download bundle option available on the now smooth-running MBV site, and the word LIMITED alongside the vinyl details. I punched my info in and am still awaiting my package. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 22-odd years to arrive… after all this is the band whose last recorded effort as a quartet was a cover of “We Have All The Time In The World“.

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I was going to do a track-by-track rundown of the mbv album (lower-case letters please) that has been on the iPod for around a whole week now but seeing that both Ned Raggett from The Quietus and Alexis Petridis from The Guardian have penned far greater reviews of this exhilarating long-player than this humble servant could ever hope to, you can read theirs instead (he said lazily). Nonetheless, my enthusiasm for “mbv” hasn’t been dimmed by a week of exposure, and although it is hardly a quantum leap from the intoxicating fuzz we fell in love with last time, the general standard of daytime-radio-friendly pop music has fallen so far (can YOU think of an early 90s irritant comparable to Guetta, Pitbull or the current slew of identikit boybands / urban soundalikes? Even Take Take that were almost bearable by comparison, ffs…) that the enchanting, dreamy, noisy wooze-pop that debatably kick-started “the scene that celebrates itself” (certain Bella Union bosses may beg to differ) was not only greeted with nostalgic glee but also as as breath of fresh air. Yes, the last track has a bit of a vintage drum-n-bass-wig-out edge to it, and in a couple of tracks Bilinda’s vocals are almost transcribable without a second listen, but there’s no doubt this is a My Bloody Valentine record. and a jolly fine one at that.

And what do the class of ’91 think of Kev and the gang’s return to our turntables? Emma from Lush tweeted that she “had heard a couple of tracks off YouTube on her “crappy laptop speaker” before proclaiming she was “gonna get the CD. Old school, yes”. Rachel from Slowdive opined – shortly after the album “dropped” – that she was “drowning in mbv”, and subsequently concurred with a follower that the album was “rather good” and that she “wouldn’t expect anything less”. Charlatan and sometime coffee man Tim Burgess described the album as “epic… loudly epic”, while David Gedge, the Ralf Hütter of The Wedding Present (and author of this post’s title, as you had probably spotted), protested he had “not had the chance yet” to hear the aforesaid recording and Boo Radley Martin Carr claimed to have been almost knocked down by a bus as he cycled home, enraptured by “mbv” on the headphones.

Meanwhile, from the world of football, Basque-born Spanish internationals past and present Gaizka Mendieta and Xabi Alonso both tweeted My Bloody Valentine related-links, with “only tomorrow” being a favourite of the Madridista. One Spanish tweeter pondered that if Xabi were allowed first dibs on the Real Madrid changing room sound system their unfortunate league trajectory could probably be dramatically reversed thanks to the power of MBV riffs.

To conclude, I would add that you could do a lot worse than investing in a hard copy of “mvb”, preferably on vinyl, or failing that on CD.

And when the package finally arrives… PLAY IT LOUD.

(Black & White mbv album shot as manipulated by The Richardson Fosters on flickr)

BONUS CONTENT FOR NOSTALGISTS:

* My Bloody Valentine Peel Session from 1988

* Shonen Knife – When You Sleep (MBV cover from “Yellow Loveless” – Japan only tribute album)

* Uncut SNUB TV interview with Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher (and Bobby Gillespie)

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Spirit of Peel: Cocteau Twins mixtape

9 Oct

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Of the vast panoply of fresh, exiting, exotic and sometimes just plain odd stuff played by John Peel in the 80’s (when the We Love All That ghetto blaster was most frequently “locked” to Radio One between the hours of nine p.m and midnight), certain bands became staples. Often these bands were white boys with guitars from somewhere north of Watford: The Smiths, The Fall, The Wedding Present, New Order etc. While Peel himself loved and championed these bands he often lamented that he would have preferred to see a few more reggae, electro, rap or African records in his listener-voted Festive Fifty at the end of each year instead of the same old same old which clogged up the charts each Yuletide, rather like bland daytime pop dominating the regular Top 40.

Another such white guitar-wielding combo from north of Watford was Cocteau Twins, fronted as any fule kno by Elizabeth “Liz” Frazer… a vocalist for whom the word “ethereal” was invented. I would love to wax (and, indeed, wane) lyrical on her original inventive lyrical and vocal style which would alternately harangue and caress the ears of the listener, but knowing that this fellow on the official (?) Cocteau Twins website has done a far better job than I ever could, just click the link and read his in-depth analysis in your own sweet time.

In 1991 Peel even scrapped that year’s Festive Fifty due to the predictability of said hit parade, although he eventually caved in to his disappointed listeners and belatedly broadcast a “Phantom Fifty” in 1993, playing just two songs (or was it just one?) A WEEK. The whole chart has been lovingly collated and sewn together by venerable home taping curator Rico here, with bits of Peelie chatting before and after the tracks as befits the occasion.

But back to Cocteau Twins, who made an earth-shattering SEVENTEEN appearances over the lifespan of the Festive Fifty and were the fifth most popular act in the eyes and ears of those who sent their postcards to Peel and Walters for the chart (we can safely presume The Fall were sitting “pretty” in pole position), and a chance discovery made on the interweb this morning that I just HAD to share… a two hour (ish) Cocteau Twins mixtape, with talky bits and everything! Compiled and – nay – mixed by one Silinder, it’s a mix (an actual mix) of well-known and more obscure “cuts”… and you can even download it if you’re fast enough. Hats off, not to Harper, but to Silinder… and enjoy the (ahem) sonic cathedrals and celestial castles of Elizabeth Frazer, Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde: