In space, no one can hear you sigh.
In the late ”80s and early ’90s, My Bloody Valentine radiated dreamy vocals muffled through a thick veil of cobwebs. The band warped densely distorted chords till it whirlpooled downward into a black hole.
Then, abruptly, the quartet set us adrift to ponder the enormity of the universe, while it contemplated how many angels could fit in his navel.
Two decades after 1991’s monolithic Loveless, the band has finally released a follow-up: this year’s m b v. The new tunes range widely: from Loveless-like whale-song dirge (“She Found Now”) to frilly drum ’n’ bass dementia (“Wonder 2”). The driving “In Another Way” even has a Madchester shuffle beat and a jerky riff that could attract a chorus of barking seals.
Listeners typically have one of two reactions to such music: sobbing in admiration or curling up in the fetal position in horror. This evening, in legendary 19th-century music hall Le Bataclan, there was a good mix of both.
The drum stutter intro to “Only Shallow” elicited an ecstatic shriek from the audience. The group’s performance was visceral and gorgeous. On m b v’s “Only Tomorrow,” Kevin Shields plucked a judiciously lumbering guitar line that cut through the din to hypnotic effect. On the wall behind the band, each song was enhanced by a projection of trippy footage that would delight armchair existentialists, were the images not so colorful.
In fact, the members of MBV are what goth poseurs ought to aspire to be: not insufferable blank slates obsessed with death, but sensitive souls oppressed by beauty, rendered dizzy and isolated by the spinning of the Earth.
True, MBV may sound like a live owl tossed into a wood chipper or a flotilla of Harleys riding a rollercoaster. Imagine Donovan affixing a tremolo bar to a chainsaw. Those of us who are converts—we unhappy few, puking to the choir—can forgive the uninitiated’s amateurish mal de mer, their rookie squeamishness. They can’t be faulted for being blind to the perfection of pain.
The set closed with the deafening “You Made Me Realise.” The song’s so-called “holocaust section” of white-noise drone lasted 10 glorious minutes and approximated an A-380 attempting to land, sans landing gear.
Once the song’s last tendrils of feedback retracted, the capacity crowd struggled to the exit. One young woman waited out the exodus on the floor. She sat immobile, her arms wrapped around knees brought up to her chest, her face buried in her thighs. She may have been weeping.
MBV was exquisite tonight. Nausea never felt so good. Vomit never tasted so sweet.