When Shoegaze Week editor Dom Gourlay emailed DiS staff asking if we could come up with some words on our favourite shoegaze songs, I rather lazily sent him a link to something I'd written on my blog (jag etc etc) about hearing My Bloody Valentine's 'You Made Me Realise' live and said I could probably write something new in the same area. My laziness was further indulged when he suggested DiS just ran the entire piece. So here we are.
A fairly po-faced list about My Bloody Valentine
So I mostly went along to see one of MBV's reunion dates at The Roundhouse because it seemed like the type of thing I ought to do... as much as I'm a fan of Loveless and quite fond of Isn't Anything, I figured it'd ultimately be kind of lovely in a boring way.
In fact what happened was the precise opposite... as it turns out everyone (probably my mum included) apart from me seemed to be fully clued up on the fact that they end their gigs with something called 'the holocaust section', 20-40 minutes of white noise extending from the song 'You Made Me Realise', the volume of which was alleged to be around 130 db, which apparently is about the same as a jet taking off from 100m away. Er, anyway, without being too gushing (I sent a text to a friend describing it as 'sound as beauty as fire as fire as fire'... ahem), it was incredible, so much so I went to see them a week later in Manchester. And naturally I feel compelled to put up a list of things the holocaust section (by far the best bit of the gig) made me think about. Groovy.
Video: My Bloody Valentine: 'You Made Me Realise'
From a musical perspective, I totally don't know if what happened was any good or not. I mean, probably it was - My Bloody Valentine have one of the best guitarists, like, ever - but I sort of still wonder if it's more a case that the main set was 'music' and the holocaust section is 'art'. Like, could me and three friends do the same if we had the right equipment and Kevin Shields talked us through what to do? Probably not, but y'know... maybe.
It wasn't just a blank roar. I mean, I think actually it was just a blank roar (certainly that's what you get if you look at any footage on YouTube), but the physical and psychological impact properly makes you hallucinate: when I saw them at the Roundhouse I thought they'd started up a slowed down version of the riff to 'Only Shallow', then at the Apollo my friend thought he heard singing... neither true. It's like, if this kind of Niagara of noise makes you imagine pretty things, does that make it pretty music?
Could you use music as an actual drug? Especially after the Apollo gig, which had a longer holocaust (about 35 mins) I felt really stoned by the end, while during it I'd found it really hard to tell where the band were on stage, even though they hadn't moved. Because if Kevin Shields actually found a note that gets you high, well, that's your explanation for what he's been doing for the last 15 years.
I've never seen any other band do anything like that, which makes me suspect I'm kind of vanilla... I mean, MBV can't have patented the idea and it's not like it's an actual song per se, so why wouldn't other people be doing shit like this all the time? Has this big venue reunion tour kind of served to turn something that was way more underground in 1992 into a kind of theme-park of the avant garde? And if nobody's exceeded them, why not..?
Given it was all old material, these were basically nostalgia dates, but it didn't feel like that at all... is there a certain volume at which nostalgia no longer applies?
All reports suggest the section was in fact just as loud as it was in the early 90s. Which is lovely, but it almost saddens me they/nobody is doing anything harder... Though I suppose it's not exactly at the top of most amp manufacturer's lists to design one that kills people. But I guess as a party piece it doesn't exactly have anywhere to go or develop, though I suppose it's not exactly the type of thing you could technically get bored of.
Some friends of a friend took pills to watch it. Can't decide if that was the best or worst idea ever.
It's going to be really, really funny when they play it at Bestival.
[NB - it freaked out a lot of people at Bestival, though inevitably it was much quieter. After about 15 minutes they suddenly jumped back into 'You Made Me Realise', which was really, really weird, a total jolt to the nerves]