Words by Mark Robinson
2001. How the time flies.
When one decides to look back at the landscape of music around the time of the new millennium, it’s hard not to have an image of Fred Durst on top of the twin towers, Sum 41 paying tribute to 80’s metal, or Linkin Park trying their damndest to be the voices of a lost generation – oh and Creed.
Over here we had Starsailor.
So music was going through a funny ol’ transition, nu-metal would slowly begin to phase out, but the boom of British rock bands had not quite begin to make their mark yet – perhaps outside of Muse’s superb second effort: Origin of Symmetry.
On 3rd March 2001, My Vitriol would release their debut album Finelines, which to this day still sounds unlike anything else, before or after its release. And had its plaudits from some of the biggest people in alternative rock; Deftones’ Chino Moreno, describing them as “the best band in the world”. And in a way My Vitriol were the British equivalent to Deftones: their sound was epic and unique, they appealed to a range of fans by being able to combine heavier moments while still retaining a pop sensibility, and… well they just looked really cool, y’kno?
But while Deftones were a band with an overall more muscular sounding tone, My Vitriol washed itself in an effects-laden ambience. Possibly due to nu-metal’s explosion at that time, or just Som Wardner having a moment of madness, he dubbed My Vitriol’s sound as “nu-gaze”; a combination of the sound once associated with the dream-pop tones of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins, now with the added edge of the 90’s fusion of punk/grunge/hard rock.
Nowhere is this more prominent then on penultimate track Falling Off The Floor. Where heavy walls of noise are compressed in a way that compliment both its origins, while also tipping its hat towards the harder rock-sheen – courtesy of producer Chris Sheldon, who’s work with the likes of Foo Fighters on their second effort, The Colour and the Shape, understood how to translate rock music onto record but without ever compensating the raw energy a band creates live. It was a perfect fit between him and My Vitriol, and I would argue he acts as a fifth member to the band, capturing their sound in a way I don’t think anyone else at that moment in time would have been able to.
Finelines starts off with Alpha Waves, one of several instrumentals scattered throughout the album that act as segues, but they are also songs that create musical landscapes of their own accord; showing the band’s ability to create outside of the standard three-minute pop-song.
But when they do go down the more traditional route? Songs like Always: Your Way, Grounded and Cemented Shoes still hold up as some of the best radio pop rock this side of the millennium. Containing melodies that are memorable and unique, blasting it through Sheldon’s aforementioned style of sheen, and having the kind of energy that still brings everything together – sounding as vibrant as the first time I heard it all those years ago.
While Som’s songwriting is key, it would be impossible not to mention guitarist Seth Taylor, who flourishes across the album with everything from soaring skyward riffs, to the gentler, delicate moments that shimmer throughout. It’s never done with a sense of self-indulgence though (a general problem with shoegaze) not that it would be possible, as drummer Rami Kesavaram pummels his drums in a fashion not unlike jimmy Chamberlin, keeping things moving swiftly along. Carolyn Bannister compliments everything with a deep, low-end sounding bass that correlates in the most gorgeous manner against the lush waves of guitars.
Ode to the Red Queen is the epic anthem Jared Leto has been desperately trying to create for the last five years – fists in the air, giant guitars, and massive choruses. Infantile ushers gently before smashing through with its quiet verse/loud chorus structure that Cobain would have been most proud of. And album closer Under the Wheels is My Vitriol with their faces planted firmly down on their shoes; an ocean of guitars collide against the drums, while Som achingly sighs in an indecipherable manner, trying his hardest to create Loveless in under three minutes.
Does the album have flaws? Yep. Losing Touch is the base template for a My Vitriol track – it just isn’t a particularly good one; and most songs off of the re-issued/rarities release, Between the Lines, would have been better suited. You could make the argument – and people have – that while My Vitriol have their own unique sound, they play too much to their strengths, and that Finelines begins to sound like a one-trick pony towards its completion. But new material the band had started to work on between 2002 and 2005, showed the songwriting had grown significantly; expanding on the already established textures, and adding songs that overall showed the band had matured.
And then nothing happened.
Even now in 2013, it’s hard to figure out what exactly happened. I was fortunate enough to meet Som and Seth back in 2008 after a My Bloody Valentine gig. The fact we could hear each other talk was a miracle in itself (MBV spent the last twenty minutes trying to destroy the Earth with the You Made Me Realise middle 8). Whilst talking, I couldn’t help but ask the single question Som has probably been asked every single day for the last ten years. In the slickest manner possible, he managed to say a lot of words without actually saying anything meaningful. There was the mention of “record label issues”, but we live in an era where such a thing is barely needed. Or perhaps he was just waiting for a new My Bloody Valentine album to be released. With that knowledge now with us, there should only be another nine years to go.