OK, new MBV first reactions. The overall sound hasn’t changed much if at all. If I had made a record as epochal and evocative as Loveless, I guess I’d have problems finishing a follow-up. There are kids in their 20s who literally grew up listening to it. I know it was on heavy rotation in my car driving kids around, and my sons are 24 and 27.
Where it’s different? “New You” is pretty sunny and not as fuzzy as the usual MBV song; the focus is on Bilinda’s multitracked vocals. It points up the influence of 60s french singers like Jane Birkin and France Gall on Shields. The album almost sounds like a noisier Stereolab at times. The two bands were more or less contemporaries; Stereolab had french women vocalists who made that connection more explicit, but it’s a serious part of Shields’ stylistic vocabular.
“If I Am” bears close listening, because it’s maybe Shields most fully realized, appealing vocal melody. If anything has changed in 22 years, it’s that Shields has progressed as a songwriter, especially in the songs he wrote for Bilinda Butcher.
“Nothing Is” in my opinion should have been left a B side, and replaced with another pop song. It is a relentlessly repetitive loop that gets slightly louder and then ends. It would be fun to hear them play it live, but compared to the more fully composed songs it comes off as a piss take.
If you’re at all a fan it’s worth tracking down the Tape Op interview where he describes his recording techniques. It’s easy listening to MBV to feel like there’s something complicated there, but once you know how simply he recorded the music it’s more impressive — there aren’t a whole bunch of overdubs — he spends time getting the sound he wants, and he might have 4 tracks of different microphones on a guitar cabinet, but compared to a Beyonce record they’re very simple and transparent.
Image stolen from Mojo Magazine without permission.