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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Live Music: Car Crash? Plane Down? Nah - It's My Bloody Valentine!

Overheard on the way out of Roseland last night: “That show reminded me of that time I was in a car crash and I almost died…” OK, so, not your typical Jonas Brothers show. In fact it was the long wished-for re-union of My Bloody Valentine, British godfathers of the shoegazer genre who both defined and defied the stereotype of insular guitar-scapes and shuffling beats that would follow in their wake (see Ride, Lush, Slowdive etc.)

After a little heard set of sunny debut EP's MBV mastermind Kevin Shields discovered the joy of effects pedals and massive feedback and used them to push his surprisingly catchy melodies off-center, scuffing up his band’s songs and laying on thick sheets of guitar on albums like 1988’s wonderful Isn’t Anything and their towering 1991 classic Loveless.

Loveless found them with growing acclaim but a crippling inability to deliver on a follow-up, going Axl Rose one better by helping to bankrupt their record label in the elaborate process of endless studio recording and tinkering. The last time the band had played live together before this year was in 1992 and they had long dispersed to other projects by 1997 without any of the abandoned studio work seeing the light of day.

So out of the mists of time comes My Bloody Valentine and nothing much has changed except the ability to now headline a barn like New York’s Roseland two nights in a row as well as the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival upstate, and some extra dosh to spend on a big light show and projected images.

What needs to be said here is this band is freaking loud.

Earplugs were handed out at all the ticket collection points and woe to the badasses who tried to go it nude of ear. The H.R. Giger-like stacks of amps cantilevered over the front of the stage ominously forewarned what was to come. As the guitars cranked up and numerous tiny hipster chicks were lofted upon their boyfriend’s shoulders to see I thought, “Well, this isn’t all THAT loud…” and slid one earplug out only to quickly force it back in against the assault of sound.

The light show, which even Shields (who kicked out a light petulantly mid-show) thought was a bit overbearing for the space, and the sculpted slabs of guitar noise made each song into its own fascinating slow motion plane crash- flashes of light, groaning metal, whooshing air. Juxtaposed on this are the melody and choruses that seem as inevitable as gravity. Even their poppiest song, "Soon", takes a jaunty Manchester beat and turns it into the sound of Happy Mondays being tortured by Al Pacino in Scarface (bathroom, chainsaw, ‘nuff said?)

Then of course came the climax, “You Made Me Realize” which devolves from mere song into what was 20 minutes (concert companion Joe Sofia was counting) of sheer rumbling, testicle jiggling, jowl flattening ever-shifting blare that can only be approximately described as the aural equivalent of tectonic plates making love. After awhile (5 minutes say?) you begin to hear notes that aren't even there in amongst the shifting swirling monumental texture. There was no encore. The only thing they could have possibly followed up with would have been to come out and do “Have You Never Been Mellow” accompanied on a xylophone- merely as a palate cleanser.

This is all to say it was a very good show indeed. Regrets? As Joe Sofia pointed out, the vocals are mixed so low as to be practically non-existent. This isn’t a band anyone goes to for the words but it still felt like an element was getting a little short shrift. The crowd was made up of a high proportion of boorish louts – surprising for a Tuesday. There was one moron who clearly hadn’t been let out of his cage for several years and felt the need to get into a fight and mosh and generally do all sorts of things that were probably slightly more amusing when he was 15 years younger. Then there were the asinine shouts of “Play Louder” from some audience members which received a delicate middle finger from bassist Debbie Googe.

Still, a few boobs weren’t enough to ruin a fantastic show and some of the worst offenders were probably the same folks who inflicted permanent hearing damage on themselves so it all ends well.

Here's a hint of what the twenty-minute section of "You Made Me Realize" sounded like - just a hint mind you:

...and here's "When You Sleep" both from earlier this year:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What kind of anal-retentive fool times the feedback portion of a show? That guy Joe Sofia sounds like a drag show-companion.