Monday, July 07, 2008

Blown a wish mind


Yes, a mere two weeks after the event. Yesterday Betty claimed hers would be the last blogger's review - as if! I'd like to say what follows is better late than never as a tribute to the legendary tardiness of the band in question, but that would be to disguise my own slackness. Hmm, 'Better Late Than Never' - that'd make a good song title for their new record...


* * * * *

You have to wonder if Graham Coxon realises he's not beslippered and dicking about in his bedroom at home but a little way down the road on the Roundhouse stage being watched by several hundred people (albeit several hundred people with precious little interest in anything other than the main attraction).

His half-hour set contains nothing I recognise from any of his solo albums and is instead the only semi-listenable ramblings of someone who's just discovered the possibilities of a self-sampling pedal. Hard to believe this is a man who once chased Page 3 girls around Benny Hill style. Perhaps this is a very public act of self-flagellation? Or perhaps he just knows no one's bothered and has set out to be deliberately obtuse?

Confession time: I came to My Bloody Valentine late. Even when, in my undergraduate days, I belatedly discovered that Britain had spawned rock bands every bit as iconic and fiendishly noisy as my American heroes, it was The Jesus & Mary Chain who made the most instant impression. Isn't Anything was good enough, and magnum opus Loveless a blissful haze of distorted guitar you could completely lose yourself in, but neither had the immediate punch-to-the-gut impact of Psychocandy.

So why was it, then, that news of MBV's reunion gigs had me scrambling for a ticket regardless of the date and venue when the Mary Chain's last year didn't? I can't explain it. But here I am. And it's absolutely fucking marvellous.

What occasionally seems a bit jangly-jangly on record is sludgey and gooey live; listening to it feels like drowning in jam. The drums are surprisingly prominent, especially on the older tracks. By contrast, the vocals - barely discernible at the best of times, particularly on Loveless (hence the reason lyrics sites rarely agree on what's being sung) - are smothered in guitar and can't be made out at all except as extra layers of sound; Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher stand making goldfish faces at the mic in the eye of the hurricane. The only time Shields's voice can be made out is the mumbled apology for cocking up one of the early songs - the fact that Colm O'Ciosoig's timing is out even on the fourth night of a five night stand being just about the only thing that proves they're mortal all night.

As to whether they played anything new, your guess is as good as mine. I'm more than happy just to hear 'Only Shallow' and 'Soon' - the latter being post-baggy indie-dance-of-sorts fed through a thousand effects pedals that singlehandedly obliterates all evil thoughts of The Stone Roses.

Nothing - nothing I've read about the past, nothing I've heard from those who witnessed it on previous nights, not even the complimentary earplugs handed out on arrival with a "You're going to need these" nod of the head from the steward - can prepare me for the final onslaught.

The barrage of noise - the "holocaust" section - dropped about two thirds of the way through 'You Made Me Realise' may not have the element of surprise but then it hardly needs it in order to make an impression; it's so loud its impact on my head is like a golf club on an overripe melon.

Five minutes in, my jeans are flapping like washing on a line, and my hair is ruffled as though by an overaggressive aunt.

Ten minutes in, we start communicating by text - this, we agree, is the chord of death.

15 minutes in, people are starting to wilt and surrender, while others surreptitiously finger their ears to prod their molten brains back in. I contemplate whether this is the point to finally admit defeat and, for the first time ever, put in the earplugs I'm rolling around in my clammy palm.

20 minutes in, and we're suddenly back to the song - though the only way you can tell is that Shields comes back to mouth into the mic and O'Ciosoig can be seen (if not heard) to be playing a regular beat, effectively muted by the deafening looped distortion.

And then it comes to an end. The earth has moved.

When I wake I'm still in a dream.

Other reviews: Delrico Bandito, Betty's Utility Room

* * * * *

And so the Glastonbury write-up kicks off tomorrow. You never know - might be back up-to-date by 2012...


skif said...

"Five minutes in, my jeans are flapping like washing on a line, and my hair is ruffled as though by an overaggressive aunt."

Lovely line.

Don't be a hero though. WEAR EARPLUGS!!! I've got used to my tinnitus but I'd rather it wasn't there.

Besides I want to be able to go to gigs, and be able to hear them, for some time yet!

I am the nanny state and I claim a reluctant kiss on my whiskery chin.

Ben said...

Ah, the voice of reason. Must listen to you more often, sir!

Del said...

Sigh. It was great wasn't it?

Thoroughly looking forward to seeing them at Bestival. Am going with a lovely group of people who are rather more about flipchart indie. I wonder what they'll make of them...