In the music spotlight: My Bloody Valentine
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With 1988’s “Isn’t Anything” and the dream-pop cacophony of its 1991 magnum opus “Loveless,” Irish quartet My Bloody Valentine cemented its position as icon of the dense but otherworldly shoegaze sound. Guitarist and studio mastermind Kevin Shields then began the effort of crafting a worthy follow-up to tracks like the cathartic “Only Shallow,” summery “When You Sleep” and teeth-rattling but delicate “Sometimes.” It only took 22 years.
The band re-emerged in 2013 with the album “mbv.” My Bloody Valentine brought its new songs to the Aragon Ballroom that year, and the fresh material was as wonderfully inscrutable and delirious as ever. “Who Sees You” and “In Another Way” offered enveloping, swirling clouds of claustrophobic sound that combined a jet engine roar with the sound of the world’s largest, angriest, and oldest Hoover vacuum cleaner. Those words may seem harsh, but fans of the ‘90s shoegazer scene will recognize them as a cheeky description of sun-soaked, slow-motion sonic euphoria.
The newer songs aren’t merely washes of white noise or retreads of prior glories. Rather, the hazy textures of “Wonder 2” unfold with memorable melodies both in Shields’ distressed guitar and his hushed, obscured vocals. Sung by Bilinda Butcher, the pulsing alt-pop of “New You” is MBV at its most shimmering and accessible. “Nothing Is” is propelled by the thunder of Colm Ó Cíosóig’s tribal drumming, brought further forward than anything on “Loveless” or “Isn’t Anything.”
On “If This and Yes,” the group straddles the line between twinkling alternative rock and Brian Eno’s ambient music. The sonic kinship isn’t lost on Shields, whose most recent release was a Record Store Day collaboration with Eno. The pair produced 18 minutes of spacefaring audio with instrumental tracks “The Weight of History” and “Only Once Away My Son.”
Devotees of the genre know that this is not a show to be skipped. Shields has hinted that he may introduce new songs in advance of extended time away for recording. With his reputation as a sonic perfectionist and studio hermit, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be coaxed back onto the road anytime soon.
Another truth recognized by all but the most ear-blasted rock geezers is that hearing protection is a must for a My Bloody Valentine show. It has even been provided at some prior dates. It may be prudent to wear a hard hat, too, in case the plaster crumbles loose from the ceiling at the venerable Riviera Theatre. This will be a show to experience all the way into your bones.
Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer.