Heaven's End/ Fade Out/ The World in Your Eyes/ A Gilded Eternity
Deluxe remastered (from the original analog tapes, no less) editions, this quartet from a South London group best known on this side of the pond for supplying a guitarist to Godflesh absolutely deserves your close attention. And a reassessment of the band's whole career.
The fresh-faced trio of Robert Hampson, Bex, and Glen Ray that formed Loop (though lineups were fluid and flexible during these early times) in 1986 belied their youth and comparative chemical innocence with this first album, Heaven's End. Clearly beholden to the Jesus and Mary Chain, Stooges, Suicide, MC5 and the more frazzled extremes of psychedelia, Loop still had enough brio and original ideas of their own to not just come off as another Spacemen 3 impersonator (though oddly, Spacemen 3 trashed them in the press whenever and wherever they could). Loop were too far adrift in the sonic aether to even notice. It's weird though, Before dropping the needle, the uninitiated would be forgiven for expecting proto-shoegaze, but the sounds here are way tougher and more solid. Heaven's End is fuzz-worshipping psych strafing from start to finish; echo, volume, and rhythm rule the day.
By the first notes of mantra-for-blurred-living, "Straight To Your Heart," you can tell that a young Loop had its shit in order and knew pretty much where it wanted to be. The Suicide cover ("Rocket USA") is a damn nice touch too, done with a VERY deft hand. Probably the best guitar-based cover of a Suicide number that I've EVER heard. And that's coming from a Suicide OBSESSIVE.
The World in Your Eyes
For the benefit of our younger readers, a little context. Unlike nowadays when a greedy record conglomerate will release EVERY SINGLE SONG off a, say, Lady Gaga album as a single, in Britain up until the late '90s that was not at all the case. Sure, "the hits" would make their way onto album track listings, but groups were also expected to churn out several singles worth of new material for a full year, including b-sides, etc. So while it might seem odd to us in the here-and-now that Loop, in 1987 as a fairly new band, had only one album under its collective belt, they already had a stack of chemically induced 45s that I would put against any of the other headtrippers of that time. Including the Mary Chain.
"16 Dreams" is buoyed aloft by ghostly peals of guitar feedback incongruously paired to the most primal, dumb shake'n'shuffle rockbeat ever, and along with the yelled manifesto-soundbite vocals, it damn well works. "Head On" is sludgy, halfspeed cavestomp greatness. "Burning World" is a sprawling, smudged, trembling masterpiece, Velvets-y gentleness and pure phaser pedal bliss. And the wracked desperation and tension of "I'll Take You There".... And that's just the beginning!
The bonus disc offers all manner of hitherto unknown pleasures: incredible covers of Can's "Mother Sky" and Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl," a multitude of different versions of "Artc-Lte," and most pleasing of all, Loop's cover of Godflesh's immortal "Like Rats" from the Loopflesh 7" that reveals the hidden spacerock layers to Godflesh's unremitting heaviness foundation without sacrificing the grit and solid state torture sound. No mean feat. (And eerily enough, Hampson would soon join Godflesh to contribute to Pure and Slavestate.) You'd be hard pressed to pass this one up.
The opaque riddle of a cover might suggest cloudy pastorals, but with Loop, things were never quite as they seemed. And with their second album proper (third if you count the aforementioned singles collection The World in Your Eyes), Loop, for lack of a better term, rocked. And I'm not talking about the vaguely fey way that Ride (whom I love) rocked. No, I'm talking full-on, burning amps, hip-thrusting, smell of car exhaust and leather, ROCKED. The influence of Hawkwind (shit, maybe Motorhead) and Neu's rowdier tantrums looms large. Every song's rhythm attack is basically a cruel stomp, sizzling lead guitar lines interlock and then explode into a million tiny pieces, the distortion pedals have an angry, raw, buzz, and even Hampson's voice has hardened into a petulant snarl. Closer to Mudhoney than the Mary Chain.
Tracks are succinct and more impatient than elsewhere in their catalog, and the thuggish swagger of numbers like "This Is Where You End" and "Got to Get it Over" is a fucking revelation. This is like garage rock songbook canon.
A Gilded Eternity
By the time of swansong album A Gilded Eternity (goddamn even the album titles are beautiful) in 1990, it's pretty astonishing the musical progression (and personnel changes) over a mere trio of albums. Overt influences of, say MC5 or the Stooges are long gone. In their place is a multifaceted, ecstatic headrush of out-there sound that is fully the province of Hampson and co. One can hear forerunners of the oceanic shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine ("The Nails Will Burn"), but also there are forays into diamond-hard, gleaming metal ("Afterglow"), and even sample-heavy, industrial mantras like "Blood." (Can see why Godflesh sought him out.) Elsewhere "Breathe into Me" has an almost Wire-esque brittleness and propulsion, and "From Centre to Wave" is just honeyed, Krautrock hymnals. B-sides like "Shot with a Diamond" and "Sunburst" frustratingly suggest intriguing sonic offroads never fully traveled. Not enough time! And fuck man, "Be Here Now" cooks!
The individual performances are assured and confident, the almost acid-jazz drumming alternating with the usual caveman chest-pounding, depth-charge bass, and innovative new directions in psych guitar -- skronk, seduction, spaceways, silence, skullcrush -- vocals ebb and flow from a whisper to a sneer to a howl. Remember them like this. A hell of a lot of other bands surely do.