The Mambo was present at the Brixton Electric little over a week ago to hear Kevin Shields’ casually claim that My Bloody Valentine’s forever delayed follow-up 1991’s unspeakably perfect Loveless could finally emerge in ‘2 or 3 days.’ Naturally, such words engendered enormous excitement despite only those in the audience possessed of the most unswerving optimism expecting such a time-frame to be met (particularly as that night’s set-list contained only 1 new song). This after all, is a band infamous for their contempt of punctuality and a band who laboured for years merely to remaster old material. As such, after 22 years, the prospect of new material hitting such a projection seemed somewhat fanciful. And of course, so it would prove.
Still, arriving only a few days later than posited, the appearance of the surreally-monikered m b v, announced via a typically understated Facebook post, felt like cause for enormous excitement. Perhaps fittingly, such joy was tempered by the band’s website immediately crashing under the strain of eager fans stampeding to sample their latest offering, yet just as a delay of a mere few days felt premature given the Valentine’s usual timekeeping tardiness, a delay of an additional few hours served only to heighten the anticipation.
Initial impressions may have been that m b v lacks the melodic immediacy of Loveless, repeated listens (and there have been repeated listens at Mambo Towers) reveal a subtly hypnotic, beautiful and incredibly addictive record. Whilst the opening 6 tracks feel like a natural progression from the previous album, largely characterised by half-buried vocals amidst noisy but languorously seductive guitar distortion, the closing 3 offer more of a progression. Whilst The Mambo’s firm belief that a significant part of the Valentine’s appeal resides as much in their vocal melodies as their genre-defining sonic innovations sees instrumental Nothing Is discarded as the album’s only filler, those either side of it are simply extraordinary. Unfathomably managing to dispell the fears of cacophonous hideousness brought on by reports of Shields’ interest in jungle and drum’n’bass (styles self-evidently and inherenetly atrocious), both in another way and wonder 2 succeed in drawing tunefulness from the least likely settings whilst sounding entirely like nothing else ever likely to be heard.
Unsurprisingly, m b v may not prove as seismic or as seminal as its predecessor and after 22 years, a 9 track record seems pretty light, it nonetheless marks a wonderful return for one of the very few bands who retain a sound entirely their own. This, coupled with the fact that the new track showcased at Brixton is enigmatically absent from m b v, therefore offering hope of further releases, provokes the sort of wild, feral delight in The Mambo that only Juan Román Riquelme can usually coax out.
As an aside, last weekend also saw the premiere of Suede’s comeback single. Having had their thunder fully stolen by the wholly unexpected return of David Bowie when unveiling new track Barriers only weeks ago, it was difficult not to feel a little for them as once again, they were ushered into the background. The timing was especially unfortunate given that It Starts And Ends With You really is pretty fantastic, with Anderson’s voice regaining much of the urgency so characteristic of much of his band’s preposterous, glorious past.
(N.B. If you fancy reading a proper review or indeed, an actual review of m b v rather than my clumsy paean – I really should stick to the football pieces – then the ever-excellent Alexis Petridis’ effort in the Guardian really is very, very good).