My Bloody Valentine - RTÉ Ten review

Updated: 08 February 2013 17:34

My Bloody Valentine made their shock return with a comeback album this week. RTÉ Ten reckons it's a clear five out of five for the mysterious guitar pioneers. Read our review here

If such a thing existed, The My Bloody Valentine Random Song Title Generator would produce some giggles. The Dublin/London foursome have always been open to affectionate ribbing among fans for their, eh, leisurely work rate but The My Bloody Valentine Random Song Title Generator might also have non-believers (if they exist) chuckling at songs called she found now, is this and yes, and if i am.

They are actually real songs from mbv, the band's first album in 22 years and they are all printed in lower case, all barely there, like sentences cut off mid expression and left to linger in the air like half-formed ideas. But if song titles ever hinted at what lay within, My Bloody Valentine are masters of a kind of grandiose understatement.

They're also musicians with a rare gift for sounding incredibly intimate and utterly huge all at the same time. When Bilinda Butcher whispers her wounded angel vocals into your ear as a chaos of detuned guitars, tremolo arm effects, and industrial drums rain down on top of you, it's hard not to believe that is this and yes may be one of the most evocative half-sentences you've ever heard.

Detached, not quite there, unreachable... it was always the way with MBV. Last Saturday night they made their surprise, nay, miraculous return with the follow up to 1991's Loveless, an album that has grown with the decades into greatness. MBV leader Kevin Shields prefers to mumble but many loud claims have been made on his band's behalf - they invented post-rock, they essentially killed off the idea of the guitar album, they played an E chord for 24 minutes at their concerts...

Considering that they did so much to re-invent the guitar album over twenty years ago, Sheilds and band mates Colm Ó Cíosóig, Butcher and Debbie Googe must have been on a quest these past two decades to re-cast music's recent fascinations and fashions but no, this new album breathes and sighs and glows and burns in the same style as Loveless.

But if that album often had moments of power-chording aggression, this comeback is softer and more soothing than pulverising. If anything it sounds like they walked back into the studio a few days after the Loveless sessions and began working almost immediately only perhaps with their 1988 album Isn't Anything also in mind.

One of the awed plaudits often bandied about on Loveless' release was that MBV were sonic architects building Gaudi-like cathedrals of noise. On MBV it's more a case of catacombs of sound as things seem to unfold slowly with a subterranean mystery. Hidden melodies lurk in the gloom, sounds can be momentarily detected just out of range before drifting to centre stage and dissipating once again.

On the opening track, she found now, a guitar chord is struck listlessly as waves of noise rumble in a haze until the chord slowly forms a tune. With no sense of a well thought out running order, the second track, only tomorrow, starts with crystal-clear percussion and guitars that lurch about under a blissfully-dazed vocal from Butcher which is then interupted occassionally by strange, extraneous high-pitched oscillations.

So detached, not quite there, unreachable but MBV are always, always guided by gorgeous melodies. who sees you may sound like sheet metal being slowly torn apart as the guitars climb higher and higher and the drums descend omniously but it is always trapped in a beautiful melody. is this and yes is the most surprising track on the album. It floats along on a spectral keyboard sound and the dull, distant thud of a bass drum and initially it may seem vapour thin but it becomes full of mystery affer several listens.

It's a prelude to if i am which approaches a near-conventional song structure ahead of the full-tilt onslaught of in another way with its cavernous guitars, busy almost baggy drums, and a massive and disconcerting clanging sound usurping a serpentine Far Eastern melody.

And then there is wonder 2 which is essentially the sound of a train gathering speed, flashing by at full pelt, panning between your loudspeakers/headphones, and then hurtling back again for another circuit. All the while, guitars shimmer and something massive looms in the distance not unlike To Here Knows When from Loveless. Shoegaze? Gimme a break - wonder 2 is more like a Doc Marten in the face. Followed, of course, by a well-spoken apology.

Like those not-quite-there song titles, the same might be said for Butcher and Shield's opaque voices and what they're actually singing. Trying to divine meaning in the coos, whispers and incantations is part of the immersion process when listening to My Bloody Valentine.

So time to treasure a startling return from a band whose resolute commitment to doing things their own way reaffirms them as pioneers, and not just musically. You know the way shapes spiral, blur and form clouds of red and black as they drift across your field of vision when you close your eyes? That's what MBV sounds like. Totally mesmerising and slightly distressing, My Bloody Valentine are back to soundtrack your dreams.

Alan Corr