My Bloody Valentine, Roundhouse, London
Tuesday 24 June 2008
Lesser talents be warned – My Bloody Valentine are back, hunting a legacy frittered away by their own procrastination and lazier groups that took on their mantle. The group re-form here after a 16-year absence, during which band leader Kevin Shields scrapped an album and went into isolation. Fans would be forgiven for expecting to find the venue still being built. This is the band, after all, that took three years to record their 1991 masterpiece Loveless. Last week, Sony BMG was due to re-release the group's two albums, a project delayed since Shields is late with the sleeve notes to explain his remastering process.
All this is forgotten as the foursome appear to carry on where they left off – Shields and fellow guitarist/ vocalist Bilinda Butcher stand either side of the stage, barely acknowledging each other. Bassist Debbie Googe assumes her usual in-profile, Egyptian carving stance, while Colm O'Ciosoig swings his arms like Keith Moon's imitation of a drum machine. From the off, they make a thrilling noise you feel in the very core of your being. For this is a group with rare ambition, the invention of their own musical language based on abstract sounds as much as notes and chords – and for that you need sheer volume.
Their trademark glide guitar has been aped by less visionary musicians. The likes of Ride, Lush and Slowdive also matched their on-stage insularity, leading to the naming of the much-lampooned shoegazing scene's watered-down efforts. There are reminders of this in Butcher's more diaphanous ballads, which wash over the crowd and are dispensed with early on. Far more satisfying is when the quartet combine aching longing with more destructive urges, as on "Feed Me With Your Kiss", from 1988's debut album Isn't Anything.
Shields and Butcher's delicate vocals are so low in the mix we might as well be hearing instrumentals, though this is all the better for appreciating the tunes that emerge from seemingly discordant layers. They close with party piece "You Made Me Realise", an innocuous number that suddenly comes to a halt as if a CD has got stuck, except this moment is stretched into a disorientating, quarter-hour whirlwind that the band shape like potters at a wheel. With visuals reminiscent of some Star Trek special effect that the Enterprise would fly into, you are reminded of Pink Floyd played here in the Sixties, probably to similar effect.
Touring to 3 July (www. mybloodyvalentine.co.uk)
To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthdaybooks
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