Friday, December 07, 2007

Valentine's day

Until recently, the prospect of a new album by Irish sonic terrorists My Bloody Valentine was about as likely as Christian Slater and Robert Downey Jnr. opting for "a quiet night in". But, no, according to Kevin Shields, prime mover in MBV, a new album (already some 11 years in the works) is nearly finished and may be in the shops later this year. Well, I'll believe it when I see it. But what is incontrovertibly true is that they plan to play live in 2008, and have already sold out dates in Glasgow, Manchester and London. More dates have been added, according to this website.

Presumably they're still signed to Island, to whom they defected after nearly bankrupting Creation Records in 1992 with their magnus opus Loveless, but for whom their output thus far (15 years into their contract) has amounted to one song, a by-the-numbers cover of Louis Armstrong's "We Have All the Time in the World". Presumably the group have taken this as their motto for the duration of their hiatus, the length of which made Kraftwerk and Kate Bush seem like workaholics by comparison.

Despite the jibes, Shields has not been totally inactive for 15 years. During much of the late 90s and early 2000s, he was a fairly pivotal part of Primal Scream, contributing to all of the best parts of their high-water mark Xtrmntr, and much of their follow-up Evil Heat. In case you haven't heard these, they're both recommended, but Xtrmntr is absolutely essential, and backs up the widely-held view that the quality of Primal Scream's albums is generally inversely proportionate to the length of Bobby Gillespie's hair. For Xtrmntr, Gillespie and co. had buzz cuts and sported military fatigues. The music was commensurately radical, and Shields' trademark tinnitus-inducing input was evident on tracks like Accelerator and Shoot Speed/Kill Light.

More astonishing still was his total reworking of the Scream track If They Move Kill 'Em. Originally appearing on the previous Primal Scream album Vanishing Point (also recommended), ITMKE was a funky little instrumental, the sort of thing the James Taylor Quartet might come up with if asked to score a Hollywood remake of some British 70s TV policier, like, say, Randall and Hopkirk Deceased. In Shields' hands, the song, which was remixed and re-presented on Xtrmntr, turned into a six-minute demented, Bollywood-inflected raga, that finishes with waves of headache-causing feedback throb. Naturally, and with a nod to Sun Ra, Shields christened himself The MBV Arkestra for the purposes of this recording. I, for one, would pay handsomely to hear the MBV Arkestra remixing the whole of Xtrmntr, in the same way that Adrian Sherwood turned out Echo Dek, a dub version of Primal Scream's Vanishing Point.

As an aside, I will mention that I was lucky enough to see Shields playing with Primal Scream in 2000, promoting Xtrmntr. Though I didn't think he'd turn up (the gig was outside the UK), dang me if he wasn't stooped stage right over an array of effects pedals while Gillespie gurned and Mani (who was looking increasingly like Derek Smalls by this point) riffed. Shields was hardly the most statesman-like presence (his appearance went unannounced and unremarked, and I'd doubt that more than 5% of the audience knew he was even there), and I'd be hard pushed to say exactly what he did in his hour and a half onstage, but I can tell you that it was an entirely memorable event. And that the most recent Primal Scream album, with Shields absent, was a godawful, forgettable mess.

Shields went on to contribute to Sofia Coppola's last two soundtracks, and found time to engineer and remix bands like Curve, EAR, The Go! Team and Dinosaur Jr. His former band-mates' activities, however, have been more sporadic. Debbie Googe, for example, was reduced to driving a cab, while Colm O'Ciosoig managed one collaboration with Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star.

Exactly who will accompany him on stage next year is unclear. Of the Loveless MBV line-up, only Bilinda Butcher seems to have confirmed. Given that it could all fall apart before next summer, I'm not going to worry about it too much. In the meantime, while we wait for more material, enjoy the following:

Download I Only Said from Loveless (deleted May 2008)

Download Sueisfine from Isn't Anything (deleted May 2008)

Download If They Move Kill 'Em by Primal Scream remixed by MBV Arkestra (from Xtrmntr) (deleted May 2008)

Download If They Move Kill 'Em (original version) by Primal Scream (from Vanishing Point) (deleted May 2008)

Loveless- from Perfect Sound Forever


irkthepurists said...

Further research tells me that MBV actually managed two songs while in Island's employ; the second was a cover of Wire's snappily-titled Map Ref 41N 93W for a tribute album. I'm sorry to say this passed me by. Still, I'm sure Island are happy that their £0.5 million wasn't just pissed away.

And it seems they have parted company with said record company, and will be "doing a Radiohead" next year, i.e. offering the new album for download only...

BrianT said...

Can't wait. Managed to bag tickets for me and Jude to see them in Manchester.
Last saw them in about 1988 at The Warehouse, a tiny club in Leeds where I also saw REM, Violent Femmes, Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Robyn Hitchcock, Happy Mondays and a host of other great bands. Shame it's just a place to dance these days.
Anyway MBV were the loudest band I ever saw, beating Dinosaur Jr, who themselves had beaten Swans, who beat Motorhead. My ears are still singing.
'Loveless' and 'Isn't anything' are still flippin' awesome (and I don't use that vernacular lightly, unlike many).