Kevin Shields, the nominal leader of the group for it’s entire history, mentioned at a show in London a few days ago that the new record would be out soon. Everyone in the crowd thought it was a joke, seeing as how the fabled follow-up was almost approaching “SMiLE” for a legendary lost album.
“Loveless” was released in 1991 on Alan McGee‘s Creation label, after two years of recording in several different studios with an array of recording engineers. The studio bill nearly bankrupted the label and tensions were high. The album failed to recoup it’s costs at first, but word-of-mouth and favourable reviews helped it to become a high-water mark of the shoegaze genre and one of the albums from the 90s to own.
After that, it seemed that they couldn’t possibly surpass “Loveless” and so they didn’t. Aside from a fairly tame cover of We Have All The Time In The World (released on the “Peace Together” compilation album) and a very trippy cover of Wire‘s Map Ref 41 degrees N 93 degrees W (featured on the Wire tribute album, “Whore”) – nothing was heard from the band. There were rumours that Shields had gone mad, that their own studio (set up with advance money from Island Records) was largely unfinished, Shields was working on a jungle/drum-n-bass record, etc. He surfaced, sanity intact (it seemed), to provide remixes for Yo La Tengo, Mogwai and Primal Scream. In fact, he joined the ‘Scream for a short while – helping out on their XTRMNTR record and playing some shows with them. I saw them in 2003 at the Reading Festival and Kevin was onstage, though he looked to be having amp problems, as he would constantly fiddle with the control buttons throughout the set.
The others had scattered – drummer Colm O’Ciosoig headed for the States and worked with Mazzy Star singer Hope Sandoval and even got a band going with his sister, Fionnuala, called The Tigerbeat. Singer/guitarist Bilinda Butcher was rumoured to be taking flamenco dancing lessons and bassist Deb Goodge was allegedly spotted driving a cab in London at one point.
The eventually reconvened for some live gigs, including some shows in Japan, playing mostly tunes off of “Loveless” and Isn’t Anything (their breakthrough 1988 album, also on Creation). Shields was constantly asked about a follow-up to “Loveless”, but remained non-committal. Then, as he had said (promised?) – “mbv” hit the internet….and the demand crashed the band’s official website. It was working again and you can purchase the album from the site.
Is it good? To me, yes. While it doesn’t break any new ground after “Loveless” (how could anything do that, really?), it follows it up quite nicely. All the hallmarks are there: swampy, swirling guitars, nearly whispered vocals, the clockwork drumming. I think it was wise, for this record, to stay in that general area. Too much of a stylistic lurch would seem to be trying hard to keep up with new styles. The latter half of the album does veer a certain distance from MBV’s past, especially the album closer, Wonder 2. That track, with it’s phased guitars resembling jet engines warming up for take-off and clattering drum-n-bass beat, does seem to point to the future of their music. Who can say, for sure, though? Only Kevin Shields & Co., and they’re not talking. I mean, you’re lucky you got a new record from them, buster.
Here’s the album opener, She Found Now: