My Bloody Valentine - m.b.v.

A couple of months ago in Glasgow I had the best paneer tikka I've ever eaten, but was it really better than the paneer tikka I eat all too regularly from the place five minutes from my flat?

Sometime just after midnight on 3rd February 2013, the internet shuddered. "Fucking hell, that hurt. What's happening? Ow!!!" as another blow caught it from behind. "Right, I've had enough of this, I'm off to bed". Transfer window deadline day had left it exhausted but it could usually cope, spend a few days recovering quietly, because nothing much really happens at the beginning of February. Until now. "Leave me alone and don't be bothering me til the morning".

Kevin smiled to himself, that last curveball had been a genius move. He'd only had the idea that afternoon. I reckon I can get away with one more, he'd thought, before I push it too far and they turn on me. The Brixton curveball, of unleashing just one new song and not even one particularly typical of the album as a whole, then fucking with the PA until it was almost unrecognisable, I can't actually believe I got away with that one, to be honest, but if this goes to plan by tomorrow morning the whole world will know my name and I won't even have to kill anyone. And he, too, wandered off to bed.

[Flashback sequence: insert appropriate vintage Delia Derbyshire oscillation and retro-futurist monochrome wibbly line here.]

(Appropriate image here - I'm just telephoning the BBC Radiophobic Workshoppe - Richard (Ed))

Bridget Riley - Arrest 1 (1965)

A dark room, London, mid nineties. Kevin lights a cigarette and stares out of the window. "Well I think it sounds great" says Bilinda, but he doesn't move, doesn't respond. Cut to street outside where McGee is getting into a limo in which Liam and Noel are waiting, and the other one(s), and they all laugh and guzzle champers. Cut back inside. Kevin picks up the master tapes, puts them in a safe, turns the lock. "Nobody wants this now. They all want cheeky chappie fake-cockernee pop, scallies doing sixties karaoke or Americans in lumberjack shirts whingeing. They don't even use effects pedals. If we release this now we'll be the laughing stock of the music press. It'll be the end for us." "So what are you going to do?" asks Bilinda. "I'll make them want it. You'd best go and do something with your life though. It could take a while...."


Because that's the thing. "m.b.v." sounds exactly like MBV. It's always the case with a band following up a lauded album, for most of the poor sods doing battle with today's music industry it happens a lot earlier than three decades into their musical existence, more like three years, or whenever the follow-up to an often over-valued debut appears: present more of the same and the knives are out; swing off in a different direction and lose a proportion of your market. Dreamers can say art shouldn't ever be about markets, bands might still claim some variant on the old chestnut of doing what we want to do and if anyone else likes it it's a bonus; both positions are only ever part of the story. Maybe I'm old, maybe today is the day to admit a pair of well-worn and comfortable slippers are actually quite nice. There will be other days for diving into the unknown. "m.b.v." sounds exactly like MBV and I for one am quite happy with that.

Even the track titles are as non-committal as they always were; then Only Shallow, now Only Tomorrow. Then I Only Said, now If I Am. And fucking hell, that sound. That tremolo. The fragile beauty of Bilinda's vocals, a string of fairy lights in a storm, and Kevin's murmurings holding firm just below the surface. That tremolo, again. Is the closing maelstrom that is Wonder 2 the greatest thing they've ever done? (Yes - Richard) No idea, ask me again in 20 years. (Good point - Richard) Right now it sounds like it, but could this just be because it's a new take on something whose familiarity has blunted its impact a little? A couple of months ago in Glasgow I had the best paneer tikka I've ever eaten, but was it really better than the paneer tikka I eat all too regularly from the place five minutes from my flat? If I lived in Glasgow and found myself in Manchester and hungry, would it have been the other way round? Either way, it's outstanding. Wonder 2 that is, though the paneer tikka was too.

You want a track-by-track indepth descriptive critique? It's mid afternoon and there are plenty of those already. Or you can just go and listen to it yourself. You probably already have. In which case you will know that "m.b.v." should put paid once and for all to the largely inaccurate Shields comparisons pinned on anyone who layers a few effects, which can't be a bad thing. Because whatever they do, most of them, it still sounds like guitars. Sometimes Kevin's guitars sound like guitars, too, and sometimes they sound like... aeroplanes. Machinery. Waterfalls. The Large Hadron Collider. Elephants mating. Take your pick. For one day only the rules don't apply and it's perfectly acceptable to say how the second half of In Another Way sounds like bagpipes playing Nintendo jingles in a cowshed. I have, as you may have noted, already taken advantage of the one-day amnesty on use of the world "maelstrom". The "sonic cathedral" thing - ridiculous attempts to find new ways of saying "it sounds immense and there's loads going on" inspiring a radio skit inspiring a retro scene that first celebrated then updated itself and laid down the red carpets for today's grand homecoming - has come full circle.

Right now, I love it. It appears that a great many other people love it, too. That whatever the real story is, whenever and wherever this music was created, however many times it's been shelved and restarted or simply reshaped (Daniel Land named his first album in his ambient guise of riverrun Pentimento, meaning "an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his or her mind as to the composition during the process of painting" - there are probably quite a few of those here) - Shields has pulled it off. The bastard. The brilliant, contrary, wonderful, insane, clever, talented bastard. If you never liked My Bloody Valentine you won't like this either. If you did, but you don't like this, it's because you're probably trying too hard not to.

One last thought, though, as people line up to roundly declare "m.b.v." a work of wonder: if later this year another long lost band, fairly recently revived after a couple of decades' legend-growing in absentia - let's call them The Stone Roses, perhaps - release a comeback album which sounds exactly like the music they made years ago, they will be equally roundly lambasted by many of the same people for being stuck in the past. You mark my words.