Given the agitated state of the world today, who doesn't need a good sonic cleanse?
Dublin's My Bloody Valentine turned the Palace Theatre into a communal sound bath on Wednesday night, filling the room with their towering, layered tones and kaleidoscopic visuals that only added to the disorientation brought about by their deafening songs.
MBV faded from the spotlight for two decades following the critical success of 1991's groundbreaking Loveless. Then the shoegaze quartet surprised everyone with a new record, m b v, in 2013. They've continued to tour sporadically and work on new material ever since, with two brand new (unnamed) songs played during MBV's potent two-hour, 20-song set at the Palace.
The new material wasn’t all that kept MBV from coming across as a tired nostalgia act making the usual rounds in search of money and acclaim that escaped them earlier in their career. This was a band who is still discovering new ways to express themselves, while obliterating the parameters of what a song can be—and how loud it can sound.
The band (who were joined by an auxiliary multi-instrumentalist) had some issues before they even played a note, with Kevin Shields expressing his dissatisfaction shortly after they took the stage. "We've got a technical issue—as usual," the notorious perfectionist announced, displaying some of the fussy qualities that kept the group from following-up Loveless for 22 years.
Thankfully, we didn't have to wait that long for the show to get going, as the group immediately kicked things in high gear with "I Only Said" and "When You Sleep." But the sound in the Palace, as well as the band themselves, didn't get fully dialed in until a dynamic, propulsive take on "New You," led by Colm Ó Cíosóig's drums, Debbie Googe's bass, and the voice of Bilinda Butcher, which continually hovered just above the tempest, a dreamlike anchor to grasp onto as we willingly drowned in MBV's volatile sea.
The first of the two new songs shared during the set absolutely rips, hitting with a force that surpasses most of the material on m b v, as the band taps into a roiling postpunk sound rather than the slow reveal of shoegaze. The other new jam is less immediate but equally compelling, which bodes well for the series of new EPs that Shields has said will be released sometime this year.
A towering wall of amps angled on Shields' side of the stage provided a protective barrier between him and the drums, and also a private alcove to get lost in while the din his guitar created swirled around the room. His tones were matched by galaxy-like astral plane images that filled the backdrop behind the band, with a new universe of both sight and sound unfolding before us as we were consumed by the moment of creation.
At times, enduring MBV's piercing sound is like stepping inside a cryotherapy chamber, where the extreme cold kills off your dead tissue while allowing your stronger cells to survive. What you thought or felt about music prior to the My Bloody Valentine show slowly dissolved away as their sound steamrolled over you, leaving fans with fresh thoughts on the possibility and potential of music while reminding us all that the act of listening is truly a visceral experience.
But simply being loud takes no talent at all. It takes artistry to turn those decibels into something that resonates with the audience rather than merely rattling the fillings in their teeth. And during "Only Shallow" and "Soon," the first and last tracks of Loveless, MBV layered a fragile beauty within their cacophonous sound, showing that if you truly let their music envelop and overtake you, it will bring you to a special place entirely of their own creation.
Time also bends in an unusual, unnatural way during an MBV show, as a few fleeting minutes seem to expand to half-hours while the band explores the depths of their sound. Short bursts of songs start to feel like entire symphonies as they lock in with their untamed, experimental jams. Everything gets a little weird at a My Bloody Valentine show.
The set began to wind down during the raw experimentalism of "Wonder 2," with Cíosóig setting the programmed drum track before emerging from behind the kit to add yet another guitar to the fray while blinding strobes and splashes of color added to the spiraling sense of disorientation. "Feed Me With Your Kiss" was fiery, potent, and to the fucking point, setting us all up for the monumental closing number, "You Made Me Realize." The seven-plus minutes of deafening noise was like a volcano erupting while the fissures of the earth broke apart beneath it, swallowing it whole as a fleet of jets passed by directly overhead. It was fucking LOUD. It was immense. It was, for that brief moment in time, everything and nothing, all at once.
Overheard in the crowd: You're kidding, right?!
I Only Said
When You Sleep
You Never Should
Cigarette In Your Bed
What You Want
Nothing Much To Lose
Who Sees You
To Here Knows When
Feed Me With Your Kiss
You Made Me Realize