Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Melody Maker | Live | 20 February 1988

MY BLOODY VALENTINE
Camden Palace, London


One half make the effort, physically tripping into tune. One's head rolls, following the carelessly thrown drumsticks, rocking to the vibration-shaken tambourine hooked onto the hi-hat, bobbing through the go-go, go-crazy, beat-boy beat. The other's body bends with the strings.

For Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher, it is a more restrained suffering. Not in silence, but in singing and in an eyes-front determination, a straight, enduring stare, faltering into a funny-faced distraction as the smoke descends. My Bloody Valentine work in ignorance, in spite of any environment.

As ever, the songs are only remotely recognisable, short, sharp bursts gone long before an image can be fixed. What remains are mere indications, a lush oasis in a barren, wild wasteland, a rush of amphetamine, a brush with power. There are glimpses of agony and ecstasy, the polarities intertwined. It is a paralytic and parasitic relationship. Each instrument kicks ferociously against the others, the vocals are tangled up, torn down, lost in the all-encompassing morass, the violent vortex of crunches, lumps and squeals. Of the noise.

Feedback teases the very edges, distorting out of proportion, dragging, drawing, propelling the band into fresh flights. This melting effect engenders a peculiar, particular brilliance when something – a melody perhaps, a word or a whole phrase – manages to claw free. It's like suddenly hearing a life-saving snippet of information through a crackling two-way radio. Danger is, of course, ever near and, exactly as they should, My Bloody Valentine push too hard, the sheer noise dominating to the point of pointlessness, of suffocation and wilful destruction.

As the shining whine itself begins to fracture, all that is left is Kevin, one hand holding the neck of his strapless guitar as he begins an animated conversation with an unseen figure stage left. The pizzas had arrived at last.

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