Friday, August 22, 2008

My Bloody Valentine
When will the right time come? When can we really get into this? When will we know that the language has evolved which will allow us to say what must be said?


So, fuck it - might as well start talking about My Bloody Valentine; fumbling our way towards some sort of enlightenment or insight. Perhaps all we really need to acknowledge, though, is the fact that this music can't be explained, accounted for or tidied away into a neat little box. That's specifically why it's so... is "interesting" too weak a word?

Words are too weak. That's the point.

Certainly, it's been said that lyric-writing was never the band's greatest strength. Where the words are audible at all, they generally amount to little more than simplistically needy pleading for sex or drugs or whatever. But context is everything in music and within the context of MBV's music, these words have an astonishingly precise, elemental power. That's why "Slow" can sound so momentous when it's really just a little ditty about... well... getting a blow job, frankly!

The point is that My Bloody Valentine are absolutely the most conceptually coherent act in rock history. It all makes sense in light of the master plan. And yet, shedding light on precisely what that plan comprises is hard work at best. Are there any precedents for this?

The only name that springs to mind is The Ramones. It's surely significant that The Ramones are a key Valentines influence. Like MBV, they built an incredibly intelligent gestalt from a few dumb elements. Like MBV, they created something shockingly piquant which fans, critics and imitators alike have consistently been unable to explain or recapture. It's easy to identify the parts, impossible to account for the sum. It's unlikely we'll ever know what the Ramones were actually getting at. But it makes so much sense on a visceral level; rings so true.

It could be said that the very problem with MBV is that their muse is so singular. They presented a future for rock music - perhaps, the only viable one that's been proposed in the last 20 years - but they did so in a way that was fundamentally inimitable. This has led many people to believe that, since the band's early-90s heyday, rock has been a style which has exhausted its potential for innovation.

That's why I sometimes have mixed feelings about UK post-rock. Much as I love acts like Scorn and Techno Animal, they did rather seem like ways for rock musicians to escape from the responsibility of carving out a future for rock per se; to disappear into electronica and experimental music. Only Disco Inferno seemed to have a valid vision of some future rock but their ambition far outstripped the technical and financial resources they had at hand.

Still, hearing MBV play songs from Loveless in Manchester this summer... well it still sounded like the future - more than 15 years down the line. It still sounded like there was a future. The lasting impression it gave me was that the last decade and a half of rock has not been a story of exhausted potential but one of mere laziness and cowardice.

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