Is seeing My Bloody Valentine live worth the hearing damage?
In 1991, My Bloody Valentine transfixed shoegaze fans with the masterpiece Loveless, but then retreated into the hazy shadows before eventually dropping off the musical map altogether. The prolonged wait for a follow-up finally came to an end earlier this year with their third full-length, m b v. Opinions on the new material varied from proclamations of another MBV masterstroke to queries of why the band even bothered. Regardless, we're talking about My Bloody Valentine's legacy once again.
Now, the Dublin quartet have just announced plans for a full-scale U.S. tour, including a highly anticipated local show at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul in November, which prompted Gimme Noise to analyze if MBV's thunderous sonic assault to your eardrums (and wallet) will ultimately be worth it, or if this is nostalgia simply getting the best of us.
Wake me up when Ride announces a reunion show
Some fans question whether My Bloody Valentine even qualifies as the best band to emerge out of the shoegaze scene, and argue that Loveless has had undue praise heaped upon it. Ride's seminal debut, Nowhere, actually preceded Loveless by over a year, and many feel thatit is more inspired and a far better representative of the shoegaze movement. It's a good time to revisit Ride, Curve, Swervedriver, Lush, and many others getting some well-deserved new fans out of MBV's current resurgence, but until these bands reform and/or play in the Twin Cities, this is all we've got.
Why not just go see Savages instead?
Some say My Bloody Valentine are musical dinosaurs who had their chance in the early '90s, and they should now just step aside and let modern bands have their moment. An easy example is Savages, who return to Minneapolis on Tuesday for a show at First Avenue less than two months after devastating the Triple Rock. We know people still return to 22-year-old but timeless Loveless, and it'll be a while before it's established that Savages' brilliant debut, Silence Yourself, has that sort of staying power. It's true that MBV's show will set you back $35. (Savages' show is half the price.) The diehards will argue this is a small price to pay to see a truly groundbreaking band -- even if they're past the peak of their musical powers. Attending both shows is a chance to bridge the influences of the past and the immediacy of music present -- assuming the next point holds up.
Will Roy Wilkins Auditorium swallow the MBV sound?
Out of all the discussions and concerns about MBV's return to the Twin Cities, this is the one that is most pressing and ultimately could help determine whether the show is a memorable one or ends up being a disaster. While plenty of bands have managed to overcome the spacious surroundings and put on amazing shows in the glorified gymnasium -- Nirvana, the White Stripes, Arcade Fire, to name a few -- more often than not the Roy has had a negative effect on the show itself, creating an echoey, muddy sound that frustrates bands and fans alike, while creating a distance between the audience and the performers that prevents a bond between the two from ever forming.
And for a band like MBV, who create an epic, textured soundscape within their music, those intricate layers might get lost within the expansive Roy. Hopefully MBV's sound guy finds the sweet spot for their mix. It would be tragic to end a 20-year wait to see MBV play live if the show gets ruined by bad sound, and Bilinda Butcher's exquisite vocals get lost in the din.
Is it all just too much noise?
If you like your shows quiet and contemplative, then you should've stopped reading a long time ago. Let's be clear about this: My Bloody Valentine's live shows are LOUD. Sometimes painfully so. Shields and company's jarring distortion can rattle your insides. And it's a worthy question whether or not music that deafening can actually be beautiful, or even listenable. MBV's live show will be an all-consuming experience, and Roy Wilkins could play a heavy hand in its outcome.
As to whether or not music can actually be appealing when heard at such high volume, that's a matter of taste and what you choose to subject your eardrums to. I remember taking out one of my earplugs at a Mogwai gig at First Avenue -- a band who play at a similar decibel level as MBV -- and it was like looking directly into the sun. All of my other senses seemed to shut down momentarily, as the thunderous sound took hold of me. Sometimes music needs to be that forceful, where every other distraction and concern is obliterated by the sheer volume and majestic sonic scope of the music itself. If you share those beliefs, then I'll surely be seeing you at the Roy this fall.
Have they lost their magic?
Anytime a group leaves the music scene for an extended length of time -- in MBV's case, over two decades -- fans are bound to question their current cultural relevance. But with merely two studio albums and legendary, cacophonous live shows, My Bloody Valentine's formidable sound architect Kevin Shields has unwittingly influenced so many of today's musicians.
Though opinions are divided about the success of m b v -- I, for one, deemed it an absolute triumph -- no one can question that the band is still making headlines 30 years after its formation. And for many fans who came to their music after the band stop performing live, the announcement of a Twin Cities date was met with praise and celebration. Now, whether the band (or any band, really) can live up to those colossal expectations is up to MBV to prove or disprove when they make their highly awaited live return.
The current spate of reunions occasionally reeks of poorly planned cash grabs where the bands lazily trot out songs that their fans know better than they do -- you better believe I'm looking right at you, the Jesus and Mary Chain) -- but reports of MBV's shows over the past few years have been quite positive, and the band members seem to be enlivened by the release of the new record as well as the dedication of their fans who waited patiently for them.
Hopefully, the group can deliver on November 1, and rise up to meet the expectations of area music fans who have placed MBV on a pedestal for years based solely on the strength of their brilliant studio output, never thinking that they would actually have the opportunity to see them play live. Now we all have that chance. Just remember to bring your earplugs.
My Bloody Valentine. $35, 7:30 p.m., Friday, November 1, at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. Tickets here.
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