My Bloody Valentine’s ‘m b v’ Turns 10
By 2013, the legend of Loveless had accumulated impossible weight. My Bloody Valentine’s second album was long codified as one of the masterpieces of the 90s, one of the masterpieces of the period of alternative music. A singular vision that spawned legions of copycats, an entire genre. Twenty-two years after its release, word of mouth and breathless acclaim had established it as one of those classics that could never be repeated. During my last semester of college in the first half of 2013, a music writer about 15 years my senior visited our pop culture criticism class and told us that when cut, the color of the cover of “Loveless” bleeds. . This was sacred territory. My Bloody Valentine had made an album that reoriented what was possible with the sound, the boundaries of guitar-based rock, and then they never followed through. Because, of course, how could you?
Part of the legend was how Loveless himself barely made it into the world. What Creation Records initially thought might take days took three years. Legend has it that the album’s seemingly tortured genesis nearly bankrupted Creation, prompting Alan McGee to quit the band shortly after its release; Kevin Shields has always maintained that this was not true. Part of the legend is what happened next – MBV goes to the majors with Island, spending part of the 90s trying to produce a successor to Loveless. The band broke up in the mid-’90s, Shields says, and he went a little crazy. In 2001, Island sued Shields because he had not released any music in the 10 years their arrangement had been in place.
All of this feeds into a particular, well-worn trope, the idea that Shields was one of those difficult, stripped-down, isolated artists. In many interviews from more recent times, writers still seem surprised to report that he is a relatively normal and fluent conversationalist, if with a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of the passage of time. But even on the road, he was never out of sight for long – touring with Primal Scream, occasionally collaborating with other artists, making music for Lost In Translation. After My Bloody Valentine regrouped for their infamous 2008 tour, there was talk of new music. But everyone had bought into the legend by then. No matter how much you saw Shields re-emerge, no matter how much the band was present on stage, we had come to accept that there would probably never be another My Bloody Valentine album. After all, they had given us without love. That was enough. How can you follow an album of that level, such a life-changing experience? It made sense not to even bother.
In January 2013, Shields took to the internet and claimed that the new album My Bloody Valentine would be released in a few days. He had talked about new music at various times in the ’00s, and at this point, it was hard to believe him. But then, suddenly, in the middle of the night on February 2, it was real. Ten years ago today, mbv arrived on the band’s website and promptly took it down as fans flocked to download it. The thing that no one thought would happen was true. After 22 years, there was, somehow, a My Bloody Valentine album after Loveless.
mbv was one of those collective musical experiences that, in the 10s, came mostly from surprise releases from great artists. There was something I could never admit at the time: When I first clicked play, sitting in my girlfriend’s dorm room, I was a little… disappointed. The hum and sludge of “She Found Now” was a hazy whisper of a reintroduction; I couldn’t appreciate it then, at that moment, because somewhere inside me I expected the long-awaited follow-up to “Loveless” to have that shattering reversal of reality that I felt the first time I heard “Only Shallow.” Anecdotally, it seemed like I was in the minority, especially when you considered the writers commenting on mbv at the time. Many of those who were there when Loveless arrived immediately saw this as the second coming that had been promised, and so they duly retreated.