Can you remember the last movie you watched with some character who was a burn-out, a waster, a person past their time, or the like? They’re pretty common – John McClane in the last two Die Hards is an easy example. Now hook that poor guy up on some smack, and let him drift in and out of consciousness. This mix of haziness, drugged lumberings and tinges of bitterness describe noise pop perfectly.
Noise pop is one of the more interesting offshoots of the indie movement, and centres around pop-y tunes with a “summer hit” sound, but viewed through a distorted lens: the sunrise of the chart-topper gives way to a sickly glow, as the tunes are tinted with fuzzy, distorted edges and hazy melodies. Noise pop derives a lot of its influence from its (much) more obscure distant cousins in general noise music, and it shows.
While influenced by earlier experimental rockers such as Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. (check out Superstar and Feel The Pain respectively), most fans agree that the genre’s first slightly hellish sunrise came with The Jesus and Mary Chain, who put out Psycho Candy, a catchy tune with more than a tinge of the sickly. The same group continued to drop big tunes in the scene, with later (relative) hits consisting of the very ’80s Head On.
One peculiar aspect of Noise Pop is that it almost immediately gave way to an offshoot genre: shoegaze. Though well-deserving of an article in its own right, if you’re hankering for a taster, some of the genre’s offshoots from noise pop are exemplified in When the Sun Hits from Slowdive and Throwing Back the Apple, of Pale Saints. Though the latter is slightly more rock-y with its riffs, the similarities are easy to spot.
In any case, noise pop itself continues to prosper. Modern acts are still making it happen: check out the wonderful tranquilliser hit that is Floating Vibe from Surfer Blood (a band I’d recommend seriously checking out: they just released a 2015 album, 1000 Palms, and I love it), while psychedeliacs Foxes in Fiction have put out the hypnotic Memory Pools.
All in all, the noise pop scene is alive and well even today, and is putting out tunes that are both uncomfortably bizarre but great fun to listen to, almost satirising pop music at times. It’s weird, but worth checking out: as Calvin Harris said, “it was acceptable in the ’80s”, so why not now?
By Joshua Rotchelle