The stuff from the weekend: Beyonce, Oxegen, My Bloody Valentine
News and views on Beyonce’s Irish dates, Oxegen’s return and My Bloody Valentine’s new album “mbv”
Let’s start with B. To coincide with her Superbowl appearance yesterday, Beyonce announced dates for her Mrs Carter tour, including two Irish dates (as predicted by OTR). Beyonce will play Dublin’s O2 on May 11 and 12. No ticket price as of yet, but we’ll update this before they go on sale next Monday morning. Prediction? Instant sellout.
Oxegen is back. All we have to go on so far are the dates (the Saturday and Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend – cue gnashing of teeth from those involved in other festivals on that weekend) and the location (ye olde Punchestown Racecourse, scene of all of Oxegen’s greatest hits and misses). The line-up will be announced later this month and it’s won’t be much of a surprise if it’s more dance and hip-hop to keep in line with the changes in the musical tastes of the target demographic, especially as Longitude is still in the works. I don’t have a clue about the line-up but the speculation (wrong-headed in this case as one of the acts “mooted” is already playing an Irish show this summer) has begun in earnest. Memo to Dinny: please book Killer Mike. Sean at the Agency Group will hook you up.
You missed it, didn’t you?
Gordon Deegan’s report notes that while MCD’s ticket sales dropped in 2012 (inevitable really when you had no Slane or Oxegen to bump up the total), profits were still “strong” according to Denis Desmond. While no figure or breakdown is given for this assertion, you can bet that the Phoenix Park shows added hugely to that bottom line. Despite the palaver over what ensued at and after the Swedish House Mafia show, those Park gigs were big earners for Desmond’s firm.
There is also a reference to security costs at Oxegens passim. Per Deegan’s report, “last year, Mr Desmond said the costs of staging the event, taking into account insurance and policing costs, “are very high”. He said: “We need to lower our overheads with Oxegen”.” However, given what happened with SHM and how the subsequent Marlay Park shows were policed, it will be interesting to see how this cost-saving will be achieved, especially as the focus will be on security and crowd control at big outdoor shows like Oxegen this summer.
The change in date is also worth noting because it means Oxegen will no longer be able to piggyback on the T In the Park line-up as has been the habit for many years. However, Oxegen began as Witnness and that event was held on the August bank holiday weekend so it’s really back to the way that things were. While there was some wailing about how Oxegen now clashes with Castlepalooza and Indiependence (there was no mention of the Liss Ard Festival so that event has some way to go in establishing a foothold on the public imagination), it’s hard to see much of a crossover in audience. After all, there can’t have been many who were going to Oxegen and another festival a fortnight later in previous years. The line-up too will also act as a significant way to differentiate between the events.
Finally, it’s the album of the year….if the year was 1993. My Bloody Valentine released their new album “mbv” on Saturday night/Sunday morning and broke the internet in the process. I love the notion of Kevin Shields uploading the album via a dial-up modem to keep with the early Nineties’ vibes and then wondering why the site keels over and dies. See, it was easier to queue outside HMV on Grafton Street at midnight to buy these event albums. By Sunday morning, though, you could pay your €12.50 and download the thing for yourself. Which is what I, like thousands of others, did….
My Bloody Valentine’s new school blues
I can’t remember the first time I heard “Loveless”, but I can remember listening to “Isn’t Anything” for the very first time vividly. MBV’s debut was a roadmap to what was to come two years later. It also was the first indication that Shields had a wall of sound in mind and is was going to knock your socks off. Listening to “Loveless” last year, when the remastered albums finally arrived (more delays there, unsurprisingly), you were reminded at just how powerful and visceral MBV were in their pomp. But that pomp was short-lived, the band went quiet and rumours took the place of facts for a decade-and-a-half. The band’s recent return to live action has been hugely welcome, but it also emphasised the unfinished business about a follow-up to “Loveless”.
And here it is. “mbv” sounds just like what you’d expect the album which comes after “Loveless” to sound like and this is the biggest problem. So much has changed since 1991, so many acts have come along to flip the script which Shields and friends wrote, so much new music influenced by “Loveless” has made us realise just how special MBV were. It was one of those albums which cast a very long shadow.
It certainly casts a shadow on the new album. By and large, “mbv” takes its cues from “Loveless” and continues that trajectory with mesmeric swabs of guitars, soft-toned vocals and great washes of atmospheric sound (yes, a new MBV record means a return to the sonic cathedrals style of Melody Maker reviews). For much of the album, you’re wondering if these are tracks which have been in the Shields’ archive since “Loveless” went on release two decades ago.
And then a couple of tracks come along and make you reconsider what you’ve just said. “New You” and “Nothing Is” are the high points on the first few listens. The former is a sleek slice of avant-garde pop, a tune which proves that MBV always had melody on their mind, even if it was coated with sonic sorcery. The latter is a beautifully hypnotic wash of experimental loops and blurs, a track which takes the “Loveless” template and really pushes on with things. Closing track “Wonder 2″ is also from the same school, a track which genuinely sounds as if it’s ahead of the curve rather than simply following the line from the last album. That’s what we wanted from “mbv”.
As third albums go, “mbv” is a good one. But this is MBV and that third album comes with so many expectations that it’s nigh on inpossible for it to live up to what we expect. You could play “what if?” by wondering how “mbv” would have been received had it gone on release in 1995 or 1996, at the height of the Britpop years. Right now, in 2013, it sounds damn good. Nothing more, though. Perhaps next time.