My Bloody Valentine, m b v (Pickpocket Records)
It’s been twenty years since Kevin Shields last directly engaged with an anxious public, and what were you expecting, Finnegans Wake? Nevertheless, these forty-six minutes of music do offer some kind of departure from the woozy albatross that is/was Loveless, no less impressive for an ostensible lack of ambition manifesting itself through sketchy, half-formed, quasi-compositions. Note that use of “ostensible”: the notion that a perfectionist like Shields didn’t carefully cull his bounty to assemble a distinctive triptych seems absurd. And a narrative does emerge - three opening volleys so familiar they might have been nestled safely somewhere between “When You Sleep” and “I Only Said” since 1991; the crystal clear synth walls, wah-wah pedals, and retro beats of a middle section so hazily Madchester one expects to hear Shaun Ryder garbling over the top; and the punishing jungle throb of a concluding act far denser than anything these closet softies have ever offered. One can dissect this thematic construction to your heart’s content, just as one can focus on the many extraneous details (those bagpipe guitars throughout “in another way,” the oversized Beatles hooks of “only tomorrow,” the thrashy skein of whipping boy “nothing is”). But it might be wisest to ignore the historical context and simply bask in the rough grooves of a dance band finally returned to the fold.
Kitty, D.A.I.S.Y. Rage (self-released)
So many humorless types are getting pissed off by this sweet-voiced hip-hop party crasher you gotta figure she’s onto something. Charges of cultural slumming are ridiculous, accusations of narcissism mostly rockist - apparently grousing about one’s anti-rash meds represents the height of amour-propre, but Leonard Cohen can detail Janis Joplin giving him head because, well, that’s just art. If her Facebook Generation concerns seem too caught up in the art of literal self-promotion, such are the times we live in, with the blog heartbreak of “UNfollowed” an acknowledged risk for somebody who admits they “like to be the trending topic”. But she’s nothing if not self-aware, and that “UNfollowed” bit quickly reveals itself as a chronicle of obsession taking place in an offline world, just like the jokey title of “$krillionaire” obscures its purpose as a bedwetter’s list of grievances. If you’re still not convinced, the decidedly un-dope beats probably won’t transport you. But consider her fresh approach to rhyme, with taunts and boasts a-plenty and no less clever for all her detached, self-amused delivery. Her efforts crumble like feta, that klonopin won’t be shared anytime soon, her books are thicker than Tolstoy, she’ll piss on your bike just to watch it rust. And what are you gonna do it about? You’re just “crab with a k / at the back of every China Buffet”.
Veronica Falls, Waiting For Something To Happen (Slumberland)
If My Bloody Valentine’s storied history helped flesh out many a rushed m b v thinkpiece, these well-meaning Londoners could use a little in the way of backstory. It’s typical of the cautious thinking predominant among the Wedding Present set (please, not “Horror Rock”) that cutting back on the reverb from their 2011 debut will likely strike fawning supporters as an epoch-defining shift. All I hear besides a few charming sides of guitar pop is proof of the old saw that a weak lyricist’s best friend is a heavy handed producer: “Everybody’s changing / I remain the same”. Weakest link - a drummer mistaking oafishly placed cymbal smashes with spectacle. In that jingle jangle morning they’ll come wallowing through.
Tracks: “My Hearts Beat,” “Teenage”
The History Of Apple Pie, Out Of View (Marshall Teller)
A few casual asides from smart friends had me briefly worried I’d be forced to offer praise unto the pop smarts of a band with as ludicrous a name as The History Of Apple Pie. Luckily, a few spins of the album in question rendered the point moot.
Mike Oldfield, Tubular Beats (EAR Music)
Oldfield always sipped from the dregs of prog, impressing entire dorm corridors with straining attempts at Reich Lite, even if his ultimate accomplishment was to bankroll Virgin Records and make the world safe for Mannheim Steamroller. For thirty years, he’s returned again and again to the well of Tubular Bells, herein referred to as T.B. for brevity’s sake - Orchestral T.B. (1975), T.B. II (1992), T.B. III (1998), Millennium Bell (1999), Best Of T.B. (2001), Complete T.B. (2003), T.B. 2003 (2003 complete re-recording), T.B. Reissue (2009), The Mike Oldfield Collection Feat. New Mix of T.B. (2009). To this slag heap of ruin we may now add T.Beats, eleven remixes between the maestro and Torsten “York” Stenzel from the original hallowed tracks. Better rhythms than T.B. itself ever claimed, yes. But you’d be wise to bet that his conception of remixing is as soggy as his conception of minimalism. And what do you want to bet that today’s undergrads are far too smart to be fooled again?