Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My Bloody Valentine, London ICA, June 13, 2008 (mp3 recording)

I have recurring dreams/nightmares, but not the typical ones where you find yourself naked in public or back in school and writing a test that you haven't studied for. My dreams involve buying or receiving a wonderful gift -- usually CDs or something otherwise music-related -- and waking up to discover that it was all a dream and I don't own that piece of desired merchandise. Morning ruined: population Me. The fact that these dreams are strongly divorced from reality in that those CDs usually don't exist in real life is besides the point.

After MBV announces their return to gigging a few months back, many people's reaction was a breathless, sustained hope that this wasn't one of those types of dreams. I think a lot of these feelings lingered even as the tour dates lined up and anticipation began in earnest. The next step in the recovery process was fear. In a small sense, it was the fear that the live shows would be shambolic, reminiscent of Sex Pistols-reunion-style OTTness and poseurism that would only serve as a reminder of how cool a band they *used* to be. In a much larger sense, the real fear wasn't that they'd be bad, but that they'd develop into Just Another Touring Band that draws decent-sized crowds who flock to hear the hits from a generation ago. A lot of music fans prefer memories and romanticism to something tangible and in-the-present, and long-held romanticism dies hard when you have to stop peddling barely-whispered campfire stories to a generation of folks who'd give their right arms to have been there back in the day because all of them can now start blogging about gig experience that had been the exclusive domain of history for so long. The transition for Legendary Recluses to Just Another Touring Band has probably hurt the reputation of a band like Kraftwerk over the past ten years, to name but one notable example.

Maybe we'll reach that point with MBV someday. But for now, we have this comeback gig, which is astoundingly, crushingly good. There are a number of blips and mistakes scattered throughout, but this scarcely matters considering how fantastic the overall show turned out to be. Even more to the point, it's just the first gig of their return, and they'll obviously improve and continue to re-gel on stage and blast brains even more thoroughly. They play frighteningly loud, obviously, but with the guitars set less to "FX-drenched stun" than in the 1991-2 gigs, and more to "primal howl". In other words, more like the MBV of the 1988-9 era that the more frequently bootlegged "Loveless" period.

Only during the fourth song, "I Only Said", did it finally sink in that the whole thing was real and that this gig was actually happening. I'd seen a few grainy Youtube clips of this show that were taken with cell phones whose microphones were frazzled immediately upon sound impact. Their dismal quality had the effect of planting an irrational doubt in my mind, as if I wasn't seeing and hearing what the clip was purported to be, like the sound and vision equivalent of identifying a burn victim. But once "I Only Said" appeared in all its power and magnificence, the emotion of the occasion finally hit me. This recording is the best piece of music I've heard all year -- not the most original or most relevant, but certainly the most rewarding.

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