Sunday, June 29, 2008

C'mon, Feel the Beautiful, Euphoric, Transcendental Noise

Not even close...

I have the discrete pleasure of testifying to what a great many others have already been evangelising: My Bloody Valentine are back and will peel the skin from your skull using only air sculpted with their Fender-brand divining rods. The general critical consensus amounts to the impressionistic descriptive quicksand I find myself wading through every time I recount the concert on the phone:
I mean, like, str0bes&tremo1o-arm swand!ves went *#%*^!*#!* "Soon" and "Feed Me With Yr -> Blinida <3 fuckin' LOUD 5-10-15-20-25 minutes into "You Made Me ~ l0se my hearing #*%^* g!rl passed out, dude... w00t!
Honestly, all the ham-fisted similes and nebulous descriptions that bloggers & mag hacks have cranked out are blamelessly quixotic: given that the legend of The Loudness has proven inarguably true, how can one explain an experience for which one has no first-hand precedent? With ham-fisted similes and nebulous, impressionistic descriptions! After all, for any first-time MBV attendee, it must also be their inaugural experience of sound as a non-environmental (i.e. not derived from mechanical or meteorological sources) yet physically-arresting phenomenon. It was sensory overload of a purity and extremity I'd certainly never experienced.

Here is where it bears expounding upon "The Holocuast": that sonic schisming of space & time at the end of "You Made Me Realise", which lasts anywhere between a quarter- and half-hour. (I sure as hell wasn't checking my watch.) The effect on the audience was uncanny, utterly bizarre. Punters that had been punching the air all night slowed their bouncing into bug-eyed, shellshocked stasis. People nodded off like junkies in every direction. God knows how many eventually fled the front of the room with their fingers in their ears. The girl in front of me slowly crumpled against the barricade and, at song's end, needed to be picked up & carried away by security. I took my earplugs out and immediately felt my spine flush into my stomach. (I put the earplugs back in.) It erased any sense-memory of every song before, and the salvo of the final verse was like being resusitated out of an overdose only to be bitch-slapped by the medic.

It was also during this onslaught that I experienced a bemusing mix of existential dread (see above) and arousal (keep reading). As many others have mentioned, the band appears to have been cryogenically preserved over the last sixteen years - meaning Bilinda Butcher is still indie-adorable, the angelic yin to PJ Harvey's gothy yang. The sight of this petite pixie, strumming away in total indifference to the evil fucking sound assaulting the crowd, was one of the most oddly sexy things I've ever seen.

Long story short (too late)... I wouldn't have traded it for anything. You could have told me that, provided I tore up my ticket, Veronica Lake circa 1942 was arriving in a time machine for a threesome with me and Tina Fey and I would have told you to fuck off.

So, to keep the buzz in the air, here's a mix of songs to sandpaper everyone else's eardrums a bit. Click on the mix title to download.

Lo(-Fi) Rider

1. Nation of Ulysses - "The Sound of Young America" (00:00)
2. Laddio Bolocko - "Goat Lips" (02:29)
3. Shit and Shine - "Danielle" (09:24)
4. Method Man - "Sub Crazy" (11:00)
5. Ween - "Awesome Sound" (13:14)
6. Alex Chilton - "Baron of Love Pt. II" (15:34)
7. The Black Lips - "Lock And Key" (19:43)
8. My Bloody Valentine - "Feed Me With Your Kiss" (22:23)
9. NO - "This Suit Burns Better" (26:12)
10. Fugazi - "Swingset" (29:07)
11. Pavement - "No Life Singed Her" (30:43)
12. The Fall - "Slates, Slags, Etc." (32:43)
13. Karaoke Vocal Eliminator - "Hideously Amplified World" (39:12)
14. Oshiri Penpenz - "Love Letter From Shitty Booze" (43:25)
15. The Cramps - "Love Me" (45:01)
16. Jacks - "Gloomy Flower" (46:58)
17. The Brainbombs - "Drive Around" (50:13)
18. Labtekwon - "Capoiera" (55:13)
19. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - "Get Over Here" (57:58)
20. Ogikubo Connection - "Staring At Blood" (01:00:02)
21. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - "The Origin of Love/The Amazing Electric Talking Cave" (01:03:18)
22. Love Life - "[Trails]" (01:09:11)


The week before the concert, I came across this article about the use of music as a tool of torture by the American military. For a split second, I wondered whether my enthusiasm for both excessive volume and repetition somehow put me in a morally unteneble position. (Answer: only when it gets on Th' Wife's nerves!) Approaching the subject too subjectively (as demonstrated by Deicide drummer Asheim) can also lead to "Bring 'em on!" braggadoccio, or even to the myopic dismissal of the very possiblity that music can be torturous. (Similarly, the composer of the Barney The Dinosaur theme argues that "playing hymns to someone strapped to a chair wouldn't make them a Christian," never seeming to consider that such a scenario may have the exact opposite effect.) All of which ignores the simple yet fundamental difference between those of us in front of Kevin Shields' amp stack, and those in the Guantanamo Bay "disco": choice.

Take the time to read the full article, if only because it provides (in the fourth paragraph) yet another concise & explicit reason to hate James Hetfield.


Fellow concertgoer and musical polygamist Bradford Cox sought to spark discussion by suggesting that
My Bloody Valentine are a folk band. Their music transfers experience in broad, ambiguous terms utilizing simple chords and melodies.
And now I'm running my mouth like flint and tinder: this seems to me a confusion of terms. I agree that MBV convey [whatever it is they convey] in broad, ambiguous terms - but isn't that the antithesis of "folk" music? I've always understood "folk" to stand for a thematic focus on finite, anecdotal evidence which alluded to some universal condition or sentiment.

It's also insultingly reductive to call MBV's chord changes and melodies "simple." Certainly, the melodies are spare and uncluttered, and there's no finger-sports athleticism on display, but part of the beauty of MBV's music is that it's largely adrift from a clear tonal center, a la Joni Mitchell. Though legions of knuckle-dragging hardcore acts may suggest otherwise, a workmanlike hammering of a handful of chords needn't be monotonic or unsophisticated. Please, if you disbelieve, tell me what key any given song by the Fall from '81-'83 was in.

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