Regardless of the circumstances of the actual show, it always seems like somewhat of an event when My Bloody Valentine comes to NYC. For me, it's a thrill to see the members of the "classic" MBV lineup perform tunes from Loveless, and it's always amazing to me that they're able to capably recreate the densely textured layers of sound that Loveless is known for.
I was as surprised (and delighted) as anyone when MBV reformed in 2008, and I was fortunate enough to be present at both of their Roseland shows that September. (Here's my review of night 1.) The '08 shows were truly landmark moments for hardcore fans who thought they'd likely never see Kevin Shields and Co. perform these songs live again. And earlier this year, the totally out-of-nowhere release of mbv was met with shock and wonder. (Too bad the album is kinda boring.)
On this night, we arrived midway through opening act Dumb Numbers' set. Murph from Dinosaur Jr. was on drums, and his heavy-handed primal pounding livened up the set of otherwise commonplace doomy, stoner licks. We were surprised to find plenty of room way up front near the stage before realizing that this show was woefully undersold. Oh well.
MBV's set was, literally, mind-blowing. This was the loudest concert (and, quite possibly, the loudest 'thing') that I've ever witnessed - despite double-stacking earplugs, I was still concerned that I was inflicting significant damage upon my eardrums. (About 2/3 of the way through the set, we took refuge at the rear of the room, only to find that it was somehow JUST AS LOUD in the way-back.) What's more, the effect of the music launching off the stage and colliding with our torsos was responsible a bizarre physical phenomenon similar to being in plane turbulence - throughout the entire set I noted that my ribcage was shaking something fierce. Kinda alarming!
I do have a couple of not-so-positive observations about the show that need to be made, however. First, MBV really needs to either play smaller rooms, or drop their ticket prices, or both. The balconies at Hammerstein were largely empty, which is a real shame. Furthermore, we got the feeling that some of the music was being piped in, a theory underscored by the fact that Bilinda didn't even play her guitar for the very vast majority of the set. Had she, you know, actually learned her parts, one would think the necessity of having a new "touring member" onstage during the set would be eliminated. No?
Regardless, as I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed this set. It's not often that godhead is splayed out in front of me like this, and I appreciated the bejeezus out of this show. The setlist was fortunately slanted heavily in favor of the classics from Loveless, with only four tracks from mbv being performed. And, of course, the evening ended with the lengthy feedback / noise freakout that's tacked onto the end of "You Made Me Realise."
If you're skeptical of yet another posthumous Hendrix release, you should be; the list of "archival" stuff that's been pinched off in the 43 years since Hendrix' death is littered with shoddy quality bootleg material and inessential, often redundant crap, the sheer quantity of which greatly outpaces the (occasionally transcendent) worthwhile stuff by a large margin. Sure, I'm definitely a sucker for unreleased / archival stuff, but this release works surprisingly well on its own as a cohesive album. Comprised mostly of material Hendrix was working on as a follow up to Electric Ladyland, People, Hell and Angels allows the listener a rare glimpse at what might have been had the allure of heroin and pills been less fiendish.
Dead Mellotron - (is it) EP
"The student has become... the teacher." Well, not exactly, but I definitely prefer this EP of hazy, Loveless-indebted shoegaze to this year's actual MBV album.
The Sunflower Logic - Clouds on the Polar Landscape EP
An off-the-cuff Robert Pollard side project featuring GbV bassist Greg Demos on drums and Bob's brother Jim on guitar, this sounds as though it was entirely improvised on the spot during a drunken jam session. Unfortunately, nary a moment of memorable music results. If you're familiar with Bob's 2005 Moping Swans project, this is somewhat similar, but way worse. Uncle Bob has often been paraphrased as boasting he "could write five songs while sitting on the toilet, and three of them will be good," although this is a project that should've been flushed in its entirety.
I simply don't get the universal acclaim for this. And I certainly don't agree with the "well at least we're lucky Kevin Shields finally put something out" stance assumed by so many mbv apologists. This is an album nearly entirely devoid of any memorable melodies. Yes, there are a few interesting moments (the synth part in "In Another Way" in particular, and a few scattered guitar lines here and there), but I don't hear any good complete songs. The closest they come is on the thumpin' little "New You," which unfortunately comes across as little more than a homage to Loveless' awesomeness.
Atoms for Peace - Amok
At this point, Thom Yorke obviously is more interested in being a producer than a singer in a rock and roll band; he seems to be more intrigued by chopsticks-tapping-on-the-desk-sounding minimalist percussiony stuff than writing the next "Paranoid Android" or whatever. Sure, there are a couple decent tracks on here, but by the midpoint you start to feel that you've heard all this stuff before, and that you may actually hear it still yet again before the album's over.
Also, what's the point of shelling out the big bucks to have Flea and Joey Waronker as your rhythm section if you're going to neuter their contributions to the point where they sound like a synth bass and drum machine?
White Widows - White Widows EP
Just a solid, meat-n-taters, no bullshit metal record, seamlessly incorporating elements of hardcore, sludge, and thrash. Fuck with this album and you'll be shittin' teeth for a week. Also, always great to hear Goes Cube's Kenny get another outlet for his stellar drumming.
with any high profile reunion comes the obvious possibility of disappointment due to unrealistic expectations. Within the first few seconds of this show any fears of MBV not being all they're cracked up to be were long gone.
Yes, it is as loud as you've heard described. The band provided the crowd with thousands of pairs of earplugs, which most of those in attendance wisely used. One of the loudest show's I've ever seen.
Kevin Shields owns a lot of Jazzmasters.
The setlist drew predominantly on songs from Loveless, Isn't Anything, and theYou Made Me Realise EP. The band played for about 70-75 minutes total, including a 16 minute version of "You Made Me Realise" to close.
The band's secret weapon is drummer Colm O'Ciosoig, whose beats turned much of the set into an ass shakin' good time. Of the many adjectives one can use for Loveless, "highly danceable" is likely not one that immediately springs to mind, but on this night much of the crowd was using their shoes for dancing rather than gazing.
I was surprised at how young the crowd was as a whole; to me it seemed as though the vast majority of 'em were NYU kids who must have still been in short pants when Loveless came out. Great to see so many young'uns with good taste in music.
At least in the area directly around me (about 10 people back from the stage, directly in the center), it seemed like a fairly knowledgeable crowd. People were losing their shit with each successive song.
The opening bands were terrible, although J Mascis joined the second band Wounded Knees for a noodly jam session, trading off licks with a flautist.
The infamous "noise segment" in "You Made Me Realise" was so loud that crowdmembers who were holding their hands aloft could actually feel the music traveling through the air. I've never experienced anything like this; it looked, felt and sounded like an airplane taking off.
$52? Pish posh. Worth every penny.
Yes, I'll be there tonight, too. Till then, Tuddd out.