One of these statements is true: mbv is a collection of Loveless outtakes with drum’n’bass samples added in 1996; mbv was written and recorded in 1992, and has been tinkered with in the studio for over 20 years; mbv could have been written and recorded at any point in the past 22 years as the follow up to Loveless, but it could only have been done by mbv.
There’s some truth in all of those possibilities, but none more so than the last point. With Loveless, MBV took their patented glide guitar (ask Guitar Hero magazine) and built up the ghostly noise with techno music’s hypnotic ecstasy.
Loveless was the sound of MBV travelling down a road that had been part-built by AR Kane and carrying on until they reached the edge of the world. And then jumping off.
"Too often when people make good records, there's an aftershock effect, and they collapse psychologically and emotionally,'' Shields said in '95. "Brian Wilson is a classic case of that. I'm trying to prove that you can make genuinely interesting music and come out with new ideas without an emotional drain to the point where you break down. I could make another record that would top the others we've made--I've been ready to for a while now--but to me it's extremely important to make that record in such a way that I'll be able to make another one. For lots of small, petty, human reasons that I won't go into, I'd like to be around in five years' time, making better and better records."
mbv is genuinely interesting insofar as it proves that any band who says they’re influenced by MBV merely want to sound like them, when they actually sound like the Mary Chain or in more outré cases like Sonic Youth. What these pretenders never seemed to work out is that the hailstorm drums were as important as the blissed out guitar layers.
I only realised a few years ago that shoegaze – Slowdive, Ride, Chapterhouse etc etc – was a scene inspired by MBV. I thought they were bands who liked fx pedals and stared at them, near where their shoes were. They were so far away from MBV that I had no idea then that they were even trying to sound like MBV.
In 1991, Loveless saw MBV in a similar position to Kraftwerk 10 years before with Computer World. Their most commercial success, Computer World was the sound of the laboratory-created Kraftwerk sound finally chiming at the same time as a lot of newer bands. Cheaper technology had allowed the rest of the world to catch up with Kraftwerk and quickly saw them overtaken by producers who could do in an evening what Kraftwerk spent years in a lab creating.
In 2013, mbv sees MBV chiming at the same time as they did in 1991, like a stopped clock. Of course mbv doesn’t sound as thrilling or unnerving as Loveless, precisely because it sounds pretty much the same. It’s quaint looking back to 1988 when Isn’t Anything came out. That disembodied, disorienting noise was so confusing for some people that they tried to use that old heavy metal canard that this music would encourage suicide (the chorus of Sue Is Fine is “suicide”). I don’t remember anyone taking that idea seriously.
No such fuss was made over Loveless, even though its sonic leap was even more disturbing than Isn’t Anything. And there’ll be no such fuss over mbv – an album so in the image of Loveless, so exactly the sound of MBV and no one else that it’s titled eponymously.
I’d like Shields (and O’ Coisoig on drums) to be around in 5 years’ time to make a better record. If, though, mbv – Loveless’ less talented sibling – is the yardstick, then they’ve already gone as far as they can. Why no one else has caught up with them or overtaken them, as happened with Kraftwerk, either points to MBV having created rock music’s avant-garde high and proved it’s an impossible ascent, or in their cyclonic sonics, loops and samples there’s something intrinsically human that can’t be replicated.