Did My Bloody Valentine really need to make another album, 22 years after their guitar-monster classic Loveless? Kevin Shields has been working on the follow-up five years longer than James Joyce spent writing Finnegans Wake. Yet nobody was really prepared for him to go ahead and drop MBV. And what a glorious roar it is: Shields brings the cosmic guitar noise, full of late-night yearnings for excess and obliteration, while singer-guitarist Bilinda Butcher adds her breathy vocals.
The nine songs divide neatly into three mini-albums. The first three explore the feedback drone of Loveless and Glider. The next three are the pop tunes; the final three go for aggro punk. Any 20-second stretch would be identifiable as My Bloody Valentine, yet every track holds surprises – the pulsing guitar strobes of “In Another Way,” the way oceanic guitar waves suck your body into the speakers on “Wonder 2.” The strangest surprises come when Shields sabotages pop melodies. “Is This and Yes” rides the Euro-trance vibe of vintage Stereolab. “New You” gets smoothed out with exquisite Motown chord changes – it could have been a radio smash in 1986 for the Blow Monkeys or Swing Out Sister. Despite the skull-crushing power, MBV is music that rewards close listening, music that takes its time to give up its secrets. And the way Shields works, the world will have plenty of time to absorb MBV before the next chapter.