Monday, June 23, 2008
Like A Virgin
I went to see My Bloody Valentine at The Roundhouse on Saturday night. What people always talk about is how loud they are. And believe me they are. Very. Really. I mean, really really fucking loud. (And according to old timers, the soundsystem wasn't up to it. But it sounded bloody loud to me.) But anyway, yes, forget the loudness for a moment. I was really excited because noone else in the world has created anything quite like the sound that they did, before or since. The records are sublime. I use that word too much, but there is no better word. Woozy, guitar drenched, often sexual without being sleazy, sweet melodies mixed with distortion and reverb.
Live, the vocals are buried even deeper in the mix. The guitars wobble and shimmer. But what's different is the sheer physicality. And now we get to the volume. Debbie Goodge's bass thumps into me in a manner that is so physical it is almost indecent. Colm's drumming somehow manages to punch through the noise right into my gut. Kevin and Bilinda look utterly serene amongst the racket. Cooing their vocals into a tornado of sound.
They look stunning. I wish I could say they look the same, but I don't remember as their last live show was when I was 12. They sound simply fantastic. It is all about the wash of the sound. It feels like sensory overload at times. And this is before they get to the big finale, the self termed "holocaust" section of You Made Me Realise. The legendary bit. The bit I got the ear plugs for. The bit I'm actually nervous about. The bit Betty warned me about six months ago when I first bought the tickets!
And so a couple of minutes after launching into You Made Me Realise, they go nuclear. They hit all the bass strings at once, and send the madly strummed guitars through distortion pedals galore. The sound is looped back on it's self, constantly feeding back, until a wall of white noise develops, over and over and over. It hits you again and again. Those without ear plugs jam fingers in their ears. Then those *with* ear plugs already in their ears cover them with their palms. The vibrations are so strong, my teeth chatter involuntarily. It is utterly transcendent. My heart rate leaps, endorphines are released, my eyes are wide, my jaw drops open. My breath is actually taken away. The only sound I can compare it to is that of a jumbo jet at the point of take off. Except we're strapped to the engine. This goes on for 20 minutes. It is simply extraordinary to surrender to something so primal. It is quite wonderful.
Eventually, they return to the thump of You Made Me Realise, and leave the stage in a wail of feedback. No chatter. No thanks. No encore. The lights come up and everyone looks shellshocked. I can't stop grinning. I remember reading in the 33 1/3 book about Loveless that this band generate the noise that our parents actually thought we were listening to as teenagers. And what an utterly glorious noise it is.
It is no understatement to say that I fell in love with My Bloody Valentine that night. I have actually dreamed about them since. It felt like going back to the excitement and apprehension of your first ever gig. The lights, the noise, a completely fresh experience. I can't wait to see them again at Bestival later this summer. And the prospect of them releasing new material, a la Portishead's simply remarkable rebirth, is just too exciting for words.
Tomorrow Radiohead. I've heard they're quite good too.
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