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Review: My Bloody Valentine worth the wait

Posted 12:59am on Thursday, Apr. 23, 2009

DALLAS -- As the crowd filed into the Palladium Ballroom Wednesday night, each person was handed a fresh pair of earplugs. While the protective foam implements are not an uncommon sight at rock shows, it's rare when a band actually insists on providing them.

But then, most bands don't have the reputation of My Bloody Valentine.

Fronted by the enigmatic, exacting Kevin Shields, the Dublin-formed and London-based foursome (vocalist/guitarist Bilinda Butcher, bassist Debbie Googe and drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig) more than lived up to its billing as one of the loudest acts on the planet. Indeed, the finale -- You Made Me Realise -- was capped by nearly 15 minutes of sustained, tooth-rattling, gut-thumping cacophony; a veritable blizzard of feedback, white noise, and, buried somewhere in there, the crash of Ó Cíosóig's cymbals.

With only five U.S. dates slated, including a slot at the just-completed Coachella festival in California, My Bloody Valentine also made its north Texas debut Wednesday. Along with that ear-bleeding notoriety comes influence; not for nothing was Wayne Coyne in the house -- his band, the Flaming Lips, owes a debt to the psychedelic sweep of MBV's catalog. My Bloody Valentine has just two studio albums and a slew of EPs to its credit, but the sonic reach of the noise-pop outfit is considerable. Acts as diverse as Spiritualized, M83 and the Verve also genuflect to MBV's pioneering shoegaze sound -- that deliberate, droning deconstruction of classic pop forms.

After releasing its sophomore full-length Loveless in 1991, My Bloody Valentine imploded, in part because of financial and creative friction, leaving a generation of fans aching for new material, something which has been suggested might be forthcoming. Still, simply the fact that Shields and company are touring again, let alone entertaining the idea of recording, is reason enough to celebrate.

For 90 minutes, from within a cocoon of dense, strobe-lit murk, My Bloody Valentine -- which kept the stage patter to an absolute minimum -- riveted a sadly thin but nevertheless ecstatic audience. Visceral in every sense of the word, the punishing wall of sound reeled from Shields' and Butcher's barely-there vocals and spiraling guitar lines to thudding, stick-in-your-gut bass and cascading percussion.

Yet for all of the unrelenting intensity, stacks upon stacks of Marshall amplifiers and sheer sensory overload, the sound was quite crisp, allowing each member's contributions to be heard, however briefly, before slipping back into the hypnotic miasma.

My Bloody Valentine delivered a powerhouse performance at the Palladium Ballroom, the sort that sticks with you long after the house lights come up and one which will surely be remembered come year's end. It's difficult to articulate precisely what it meant -- and most crucially, felt like -- to see one of the most respected bands in the world do what it loves, with no expectations of anything approaching crude, commercialized top 40 pap.

All anyone wanted was the songs; the glorious splashes of melody subsumed by all manner of bristled brilliance, rendered with tenacity and grace by one of modern music's most revelatory talents.

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