There’s a hoary cliché in today’s rockcrit — actually, there are many, but for the purposes of today’s discussion we’re only going to talk about one — and it goes like this: “This is less like a [artist] album and more like someone’s idea of what an [artist] album should sound like.” (I’m not sure who invented this line, but I’m fairly certain it at least was popularized with Pitchfork’s review of The Boy With the Arab Strap,. but I can’t find evidence of that online.) Now, I personally would have shorthanded that with the word “self-parody” — less wordy, makes no pretense to being “witty.” But I mention this not because I want to say something about that bastion of indie sanctity (yet) but because I was reminded of this line when listening to the long-aborning new record by My Bloody Valentine. It isn’t self-parody by any means — in fact, it’s actually quite good. But it’s the formalist joke to end all formalist jokes — if you were to play these records side by side to a Martian and ask him/her/it which one took twenty years to make and which one took two, that Martian would be scratching its equivalent of its head, because they both sound exactly the same. Yet everyone is falling over themselves with the superlatives, including Pitchfork, who must have to justify years and years of Kevin Shields updates. What gives? The thing is definitely pretty, loud, murmuring, distorted, all the things you’d expect. But what justifies the wait? Years and years of knob-twiddling? One more guitar overdub? Getting the barely existent vocals “perfect?” Or did Kevin have a bet going with Axl Rose that Rose lost when he released Chinese Democracy?
I’m seriously thinking about A minus-ing this one and keeping the review short, like this: “It’s pretty good.” Why explain yourself any further?