When rock stars swap their Fender Jaguar for an acoustic guitar, it usually signals a course correction toward calmer waters. For Kevin Shields, it is a cue to trigger debilitating waves of sound and relentless strobes. Cigarette in Your Bed sounded dreamy on record in 1988. Live in 2013, it is an aggravated assault, Bilinda Butcher's sweet voice brutally tossed around in a maelstrom. This is music repurposed as drone warfare, yet the sold-out crowd take their punishment and bellow for more.
By impetuously releasing the new My Bloody Valentine album online last month with almost no warning, Shields turned the internet into his own personal echo chamber. At first contact, the album, m b v, sounded less like a 22-year-delayed followup to the classic Loveless than a direct continuation, a time-slipped twin. It's another MBV album to get lost in, but the new tracks are dished out rather stingily tonight.
New You has a stately, insistent thump to it, even as the layered guitars shimmer away in a typically seamless spiral. Whether by accident or design, Shields is left strumming alone at the end, and he just keeps going for another cycle – an aural victory lap. Another new song, Only Tomorrow, features a memorable space-rocket whoosh that manages to remain distinct in an evening not lacking in either space rock or whooshing.
Tracks from Loveless have had much of their sonic queasiness domesticated after two decades, but all are rejuvenated through sheer volume. The air-raid riffs that bracket the breathy vocals in Only Shallow have always been disorientating, but live they now sound so distended and banshee-like it feels as if Shields has invented a new genre: beezlebubblegum pop.
There is no small-talk in the sometimes longish gaps between songs – probably wise at a gig where a considerable proportion of the audience is wearing earplugs. Partly, that's because of the reputation of You Made Me Realise, a gauzy three-minute pop song cut-and-shunted with an unpredictable torrent of trouser-flapping feedback. This time, it lasts for a head-wrecking 10 minutes.
That is usually the end of it at MBV gigs, but tonight there is a final coda. Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig clambers out from behind his kit and picks up a Fender for Wonder 2, the closing track of m b v. Over a restless, phasing drum loop, Shields hacks out a piercing guitar line while his bandmates thrash in co-ordinated chaos, searching for the ineffable in the deafening.
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