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Why My Bloody Valentine Had the Year Obama Wishes He Did

Bryan Bedder / Pool, Getty Images

Earlier this year, a website went live promising to fulfill a long-standing public need and ease the suffering of millions. The rollout followed decades of “should they or shouldn’t they?” debate, and smart, reasonable, well-intentioned people — as well as complete and total crazies — on both sides of the issue had made valid points about this highly divisive product finally being offered to the masses.

Among the project’s cheerleaders, excitement quickly turned to disappointment, as the website crashed, leaving thousands of early birds unable to enter their personal information and take the first steps toward proving the naysayers wrong.

Fortunately, we’re not talking about healthcare.gov. This was mybloodyvalentine.org, and in the waning hours of Feb. 2, not long after that initial glitch, the servers righted themselves, and fans were finally able to download ‘m b v,’ the first new album from My Bloody Valentine in 22 years. Scores of giddy shoegaze aficionados reached for their credit cards, eager to have their minds and eardrums blown, and by the next morning, critics and civilians alike had begun to post their initial reviews.

Opinions varied, and nearly a year later, they still do, but whatever you think of ‘m b v,’ you’ve got to admire the execution. MBV mastermind Kevin Shields used the Internet to give the people something he felt they should have but they weren’t sure they wanted: a follow-up to 1991′s much-loved ‘Loveless.’ Shields had the year President Obama wishes he had, and the inept officials behind the shamefully ill-built federal health care website could learn a lot from this resurgent Irish god of noise.

But if Obama has read the press on ‘m b v,’ he has reason to be hopeful his health care initiative will eventually work out. When the record dropped, some heard a sequel to ‘Loveless.’ The opening three tracks lend credence to this argument, as Shields simultaneously soothes and scrapes like he did back in the day, using distortion and reverb to create another Black & Decker power-tool symphony to god. Others — those stuck on the final three tracks, perhaps — found ‘m b v’ a radical departure, something akin to the “jungle record” Shields had talked up in the ’90s, when he began working on the thing.

Each assessment brought its share of cheers and jeers, but the fairest reading of ‘m b v’ lies somewhere in between. Dig into those middle three songs, particularly the sublime ‘new you,’ and you’ll discover a subtly recalibrated MBV, one different and the same. As on ‘Loveless,’ the guitars ooze and stretch like blobs of sidewalk gum — gooey and cruddy but still plenty sweet — and the vocals float over the top, wordless and full of mystery. And yet the drums drive the music forward in new ways, and for reasons no one seems to be able to articulate, it rarely sounds as if Shields is selling ‘Loveless’ outtakes or giving us anything he could have given us in ’91.

The general consensus seems to have become that ‘m b v’ is neither brilliant nor terrible. Some like it, some don’t, but no one feels the world is a worse place for its existence. Over time, it’s more likely grow on haters than it is to lose potency among champions, and Shields’ mini-victory may come to be known as a major triumph.

If Obama’s lucky, the same will be true of health care. With the creation of state-run insurance exchanges, a lot of people will either keep their existing plans or sign up for better ones that will cost them less money. Folks suffering from pre-existing conditions will have the opportunity to buy coverage the insurance companies never would have offered under the old system, when profits were the only consideration.

Conversely, some unlucky individuals will lose their existing plans and wind up paying more for insurance. There will be big winners and big losers, but for an awful lot of people, things probably won’t change all that much, and in the coming years, as the feds learn how to run the portal and everyone else gets used to the system, things are bound to improve. Obamacare, like ‘m b v,’ is a grower. It needs time to reveal itself.

True, libertarians and small-government hardliners will never come around, but at some point, skeptics may hear in the words “universal health care” something like the melody that seeps through in ‘new you.’ It’s not perfectly pretty or obvious, but it does something amazing: It sounds good to those who came in wanting to love it and expecting to hate it.

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