I wasn't looking forward to My Bloody Valentine at Glasgow's Barrowlands last night. Well, obviously I was looking forward to it, but my head was so stuffed with cold that it was only the promise of a special MBV sonic assualt that was keeping me out my bed. And at first I thought it was underwhelming and nowhere near as loud as they've been reputed to be; but then, I had dug my earphones in; a bit of wiggling, well, made me realise. And of course, every song was slightly louder than the previous, amping it up to infinity and beyond, until we got to the finale. Oh god the finale.
'The Holocaust', so called because it is pure evil, is the 20 minute long mid-section of 'You Made Me Realise' which sounds like being strapped to the underside of a space rocket on take-off. For 20 minutes. It's Metal Machine Music, live, at massive volume. It was harrowing. I was pushing my earplugs as far in as they'd go, while others were braving it with naked ears. I'm convinced hundreds of Scots will lose their hearing months earlier than otherwise because of that 20 minute spell. But then, hearing the reaction afterwards, they'd say it was worth it. Two of my mates said it was the greatest thing they'd ever seen. The others were almost as enthusiastic. A guy in the loos was yelling, "Kill me now! I'm ready to die! Nothing in life will ever beat that!", and nobody was disagreeing.
I didn't feel like that, but you know what? I think it cured my cold. My nose which had been streaming all day gave up during MBV. "Forget fighting this bug fellas, we need to get to the ears, pronto!". On leaving, for the first time in days, my nose was dry. There was some viscous liquid oozing from my ears, granted, but my nose was dry. So perhaps we've found a cure for the common cold: My Bloody Valentine live. I don't want to say 'The Holocaust' - that sounds a little, er, heavy-handed.
More reaction from the gig:
Pat Nevin, former Chelsea and Scotland winger, currently BBC Scotland's best football pundit, said
"I've not seen anything like that since The Jesus & Mary Chain 25 years ago!"
James Graham, lead singer of The Twilight Sad, said
"it's back to the drawing board for us!"
Their noisy bluster owes a clear debt to MBV, and indeed the last time I saw anything as loud was The Twilight Sad in a tiny Edinburgh venue called Bannerman's.
I'm obviously not as cool as Pat Nevin.
But I'm still not convinced that Loveless is anything more than a very good alt-rock record. I read this essay again today - Scott McKeating's Loveless take-down on WWIA - and find myself agreeing with a lot of it. In summary: Kevin Shields wasn't a genius, he was a stoner; the apparently revolutionary ethereal sound was just a more extreme layering of production techniques done by Cocteau Twins before; it conveniently helps mask a shortage of traditional songwriting ideas. There's nothing to grab hold of if you're not transfixed by the visceral thrill of the sound itself - which of course you will be, live, if they roar it at you at incredible volume. Isn't turning up the volume a kinda obvious and cheap trick to make anything sound better? My buddy Graeme, who's writing the gig review for The Skinny, explained that Loveless had changed his life, because it was completely unlike anything he'd heard before. I wonder if he'd have been so blown away if he'd already heard bands like Sonic Youth, the JAMC, or the Cocteaus.