My Bloody Valentine’s music is to be certain a far cry from what I myself produce, at least at this point, but I’ve been a total MBV obsessive since the Tremolo EP came out. Predictably, I’m thrilled with the new record. Maintaining, as I do, a snail mail correspondence with a number of close friends, I put my thoughts on paper in a letter to my friend, Mike, another MBV obsessive.
As you might well imagine, I am listening to m b v as I write. No surprise here, because I’ve been listening to it in nearly all my free moments since it came out. I am completely psyched. There was a piece on it by a guy named, I think, Ned Raggett (a swarthy name, if nothing else) in an online “’zine” called The Quietus, that more or less speaks for me. He’d been a fan since back in the dizzay, just like us. And now he’s a bit older. His point was that he didn’t expect the second coming, didn’t think “oh, this will be better or worse than Loveless,” he just was ready for a really great new My Bloody Valentine record to listen to. I can safely say I took the same approach, and I am completely–absolutely completely–satisfied with it.
A lot of reviews I’ve read of it, particularly in the mainstream press, where they don’t want to go out on a limb, say things like “of course, nothing on it is as good as Loveless or Isn’t Anything.” Bulls**t. Most of it, in fact, is to my ears better than most of either of the two records. I don’t know if you follow the fanboy forum–it appears, conclusively, that not a single woman posts to the board–at http://tohereknowswhen.org, but a lot of those types, the ones who more recently heard MBV, seem to latch on to the last three songs as the most “forward.” I claim the contrary. The most forward looking are in fact the first three, the ones that on first listen sound the most like Loveless. I am convinced that they are the most recently conceived. I’d read interviews with Kevin in which he said that in ‘94 or so they were listening to a lot of jungle and drum ‘n’ bass, and that they did some stuff in that vein. Clearly, these are the last three songs. He also said that he felt that most of what he’d done at that point was too intellectual, trying very consciously to “move forward” and do something “new.”
He’d also said that a few of the things from ‘94 were, in fact, pretty good, just not a record’s worth. My impression is that those are the things that made it on to m b v. Of them, my favorite is, not unpredictably, “Wonder 2.” It’s one of the four or five most astonishing things they’ve done. I can see how it came out of a period that Kevin feels was more intellectualized than he wants, but there’s a lot of feeling in it, too. He obviously knew this, too.
All this said, MBV to me has always been about producing feeling rather than ideas. Kevin’s melodies, which are easily on a level with a Brian Wilson at his best, are all about that. This is why, I think, he started to approach the intensity of sound that began with “You Made Me Realize” and really came into its own with “Soon.” Just hearing that sound goes to a part of the listener–to me, at least, and from what I read, to others–that elicits a physical feeling. MBV goes to the body, in other words, not the head. Right now, having put the record on repeat, I’m back on “only tomorrow.” There’s that little break when a note on the guitar sounds like it’s coming out of the speakers back at you like a bullwhip. Every time I hear it, I feel it in my stomach. It’s this that Kevin wants to elicit in the listener. Breaking out of our narrow minds and going into, through the sound, our bodies.
Those first three tunes do that best, for my money. “who sees you” is playing now, and were I to choose a favorite on the record, this would be it. Much is made of the “chainsaw” sound of the guitars with MBV, but when I hear it, I get this sense that sound–not the particular sound of the song, but sound itself–is splitting as I experience it. Again, when the guitar solo comes in after the vocal, relatively out front in the mix, I feel it in my stomach. He gets you to a level where you feel you’re maxed out, at 10, and he takes you, as you’ll surely predict I’ll say, to 11. That gets the physical reaction: your head doesn’t think you can go any further but the sound takes you there anyway.
Kevin is all about transgressing boundaries, but, I’ll imagine, what he felt stuck on with the more “intellectual” stuff is that he fairly easy could transgress boundaries of genre, or some other strictly musical boundaries. What he was after, though, was breaking down the distinction between sound, physical sensation, and emotion. This he does, fully, with those first three tunes. The whole record, to be sure, is fantastic, but it’s the tunes that many seem to think are most like his previous work that to me are the most rewarding and point, most powerfully, the way forward. I have a pet theory that the next MBV release will sound even more like Loveless than Loveless.
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