It’s been five years since I last saw My Bloody Valentine live, and I’ve only just managed to recover the last fragments of earplug mined from my brain after surviving their sonic assault at Camden’s Roundhouse back in 2008.
Their 2013 return to the UK sees volume levels remain the same (watching MBV is like picking a fight with a 747 in a wind tunnel and losing, as I tweeted last night), but the setlist is a little different; there’s a new album on the way, more than 21 years since the launch of their seminal Loveless record. And tonight’s gig marks the debut of a few cuts from it.
Kevin Shields and co kick off with new number ‘Rough Song’, and for a band whose signature live attack is dished out with serrated guitars, the presence of a keyboard is a little unnerving. It’s a poppy number that recalls ‘When You Sleep’, suggesting the new album may have a fair whack of tunes as well as ethereal dreamscapes. It brings with it a tease from the usually-silent Shields, mumbling to a persistent heckler that the new album’s release could be as close as “two or three days”. What with Shields’ trademark tardy perfectionism, we wouldn’t start holding our breath just yet, but considering the album was apparently mastered back in December anything is possible.
Anything, that is, than being able to decipher a tune tonight. Even by MBV’s aggressive standards, something’s a bit off. The PA at Electric Brixton is overwhelmed by the band, with vocals (traditionally low in the mix for MBV by default) lost in the squall. You don’t expect subtlety from Shields’ screeching riffs and Debbie Googe’s bass pummelling, but even Shields finds it necessary to cut off ‘To Here Knows When’ halfway through.
At their most aurally-unapologetic however with ‘Feed Me With You Kiss’ and the closing 10 minute white noise endurance test of ‘You Made Me Realise’, the night hits a sadomasochistic state of nirvana, a blissful sonic-sucker punch to see the punters off into the night with a smile on their faces and bloody tissues in their ears.
Here’s a selection of choice Twitter commentary on the gig from last night:
Indie night out: J Mascis, Thurston Moore, @tim_burgess and Kinesthesia all at My Bloody Valentine Brixton gig
— Kevin Lynch (@kevin__lynch) January 27, 2013
At My Bloody Valentine in Brixton. Kevin Shields said from the stage the new album ‘might be out in two our three days’
— Adam Boult (@adamboult) January 27, 2013
Watching My bloody valentine without earplugs was much like having unprotected sex. Much more fun but on the whole quite stupid. #eardoms
— Honey (@honeyNOhoney) January 27, 2013
I always thought earplugs at gigs was cheating, but then tonight I saw My Bloody Valentine. So very loud, but so very, very ace.
— Greta Wallace (@mrs_wallace) January 27, 2013