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Paradise Postponed

With A R Kane and Dinosaur Jr, Croydon noiseniks LOOP are busy reviving indie white rock fortunes. JACK BARRON asks how long before these bands get their own TV show? Picture CHRIS CLUNN.

The Manchild from Loop sits on the table. Squat, coffin-shaped, and silent. I look directly in his eyes and nod a greeting. He says nothing. There's a sign on his face which reads: I take 10p! Isliphim20andshake his hand. His eyes roll back into his head with a clacking sound. One by one all three ofthem stop. A cherry! Another cherry! And yet one more cherry! The money pours out of his mouth. . .
spacer Trying to communicate with fruit machines was the nearest I could get to simulating an interview with Loop. They have this reputation, you see, for being space cadets of the highest order. Voluble as Cistercian nuns, charsimatic as the free frogmen in a packet of Frosties, mystical as the navel in Bhudda's beergut.
spacer "Yeah, a lot of people think we're acid casualties," agrees Robert Wills, "we seem to attract that kind of press coverage. Also, listening to the music perhaps we come across like that. But we're not as wigged out as everybody thinks we are. We're not casualties, basically. Perhaps that's to come in a few years time."
spacer Loop-leader Robert and his drummer brother John crease up at the idea. Long hair splitting at the ends, jeans ripping at the knee, pointy toed boots kicking holes in the In air as they laugh.
spacer "The first question people always ask us is: do you take acid?" continues Robert. "And the answer is not every day.
spacer "I mean acid has had a profound effect on my life because it turns you in on yourself. Everything takes on a completely different structure and it makes everday living topsy-turvey. I enjoy it because it's like going into a totally different world. And it has definitely had an effect on our music more than anything else."
spacer Is that what you want your music to be like for other people - going into a different world?
spacer "Yeah," agrees Robert, "but not in a shitty or pretentious way. . . We try to make sure everything we do comes from the heart. Any element of pretentiousness I can't abide. You've got to have a passion about doing anything. And if pretentiousness overtakes the passion then you shouldn't be doing it. "
spacer For people who play the sort of music that makes others see stars and write bad poetry, Loop are some of the most earthwise people you could wish to meet. It couldn't be any otherway. After all, they come from Croydon. Not Croydon St, Haight Ashbury. But plain Croydon, the place everybody hates. With a minimum of blabber and smoke, Loop's debut album, 'Heaven's End', has just been released. It has made it into the best LPs ofthe year charts of at least two NME writers. lt should be on yours.
spacer An unashamedly psychedelic affair, in a particularly psychotic 1987 way, 'Heaven's End - the termination of God's kingdom rather than the celestial exit door - wears some of its influences on its sleeve: a still from Kubrick's 2001 and a dedication to Arthur Lee of Love.
spacer A mindcave of melodic distortion and wah-wah, sinister, nervy and jagged, 'Heaven's End is paradise postponed through erosion. Punk and psychedlia corroded into a howling. If you can imagine hopping into a concrete mixer filled with jellyfish and switching the machine onto maximum rumble, that's the effect of Loop: stinging, eveloping and loud.
spacer Others are navigating similar terrain, AR Kane and Dinosaur among them. One day a theorist will truss them up with chickenwire and attempt to stuff them in a pigeonhole. And it'li be as meaningless as grebo.
spacer "Journalists are always trying to start 'movements'," says Robert from between chipped teeth with enough gap to spit a river. "We were once lumped in with grebos, which is ridiculous. I don't even class us strictly as a psychedelic band. "We're influenced visually, in terms of our live show, and musically by psychedelia because we're big fans of it. But we try and mix it in with the rawness of The Stooges and The MC5, and even latter day bands like Suicide and The Pop Group.
spacer "Basically we're just big fans of music. Neubauten and Sonic Youththe noisier elements- are in there as well somewhere. But what probably inspired me to get bands together more than anything else was the Birthday Party. I thought: ifthey can do it I'm sure I can."

One of Robert's first projects was John Aged 41/2 who featured three basses, an army of drums, backing tapes and slide-shows. Their one big moment came when John Walters, no doubt attracted by the name, checked them out. That was six years ago. Loop evolved out ofthis gravitating towards what Robert calls "a calamity of sound.
spacer "There is an idea of an undercurrent of evil in our music, that's why we called the album after the end of heaven," he continues. "
spacer . . . And we deliberately emphasise violence in our sound because I enjoy those elements of life more than others. I get more pleasure out of violence than I do out of niceness. I hate the tweeness associated with niceness. "Violence is all around you, on the streets, on TV news reports. It disturbs some people, I get lost in it. Violence is also in the books I read and films I see. Trashy detective novels, horror books by Stephen King, Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell. Films like Angel Heart, Evil Dead. cheap nasty splatter movies and so on."
spacer And, of course, Stanley Kubrick. Hal, the computer in 2001, is featured on 'Heaven's End' giving advice like "I really think you ought to sit down and take a stress pill." it finally freaks out with "My mind is going." These segments were included for reasons of humour, according to Robert.
spacer "I like the way Kubrick makes films," explains the singer. "And the way he underlines violence is perhaps the way we underline it in our songs. It's not pushing it down your throat, but there's always a sinister edge to it. A guy who has just bought our record might not understand this, but to me Kubrick is almost an influence on our music."
spacer The lucky record buyer might not understand the lyrics to 'Heaven's End' either since the voices are distant, given equal balance with the instruments rather than being focussed high in the mix. The album ,is best appreciated, reckons Robert, when listened to under the influence:
spacer "That's what Ilike about Loop, the indecision of it all. You just get lost in it and have to find your own way to meaning. The object is to envelop you."
spacer This is another trait the band share with people like AR Kane, Dinosaur and no doubt a thousand others. After years of pop fascists si ng ing manifestoes, projecting lifestyles, telling us howto be and look, this retreat into solipsism is no accident. Indeed it's one of the trademarks of some of 1987's finest music.
spacer But will it develop further? Is there any chance ofthese sound corrosives infecting the mainstream? Myself and Loop talk at length about this. Robert and John admit their music is of limited appeal at present, but then so was the music of The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols and The Beastie Boys once. Only nowadays white indie music is so underground as to be almost invisible with a few obvious exceptions like The Housemartins, New Order, and the late Smiths.
spacer Aside from Peel and Long - who've been going for so many years they've got stretch marks around their mouths, bless their little cotton microphones-there are few avenues in the broadcast media (the most powerful agents of cultural control in this country) open to a band like Loop. Even the odd independent programme, like Radion London's, is committed to musically safe Smiths influenced groups ad nauseam. Their idea of an innovatory American outfit outfit, for example, is Guadalcanal Diary! Yuk!
spacer Moreover, unlike hip-hop, house and electro, there isn't an infrastructure of pirate networks supporting the music. I can't think of a single daytime pirate specialising in the more extreme white indie sounds in London. Elsewhere in the country it may be different.
spacer And if radio play is virtually impossible, then getting on TV requires nothing short of a miracle for noiseniks who aren't willing to dress like colour blind ginks or bullshit a spurious manifesto about being the future of rock'n'roll.
spacer "I believe there should be a truly independent TV show," argues Robert. "Channel 4 can give airtime to a heavy metal programme, ECT or whatever it was called, so why can't they do that for indies? At the moment that's the quagmire everybody gets stuck in.
spacer "At present indie bands can only go as far as the media with let them. Then they have to turn to people like major record companies because the indie market hasn't got the scope to help them. A few video clips on The Chart Show isn't good enough when soul and heavy metal have their own TV programmes."
spacer The next level down in the heirarchy of cultural control in so far as they are staple reading for broadcasting mediacrats who plunder them for ideas- are the monthly colour mags. Since these are motivated by style as opposed to content, and controlled forthe most part by jaded bozos from the '60s and punk who're now jazz bores, the mags are equally a no-go area for soundcorrosive groups.
spacer Even the inky music press, the last bastion of all new ideas spawning in the tributaries outside the mainstream, is getting'more ineffective at disseminating a soundscape of alternatives. Careerist factionalism -the infantile my band-is-better-than-your-band attitude amongst writers - is the order of the day, quality music is suffering for it, and the result is public confusion.
spacer "It's weird but we get slagged off constantly in the press by people who are writing articles not about us but about somebody else," moans Robert. "It just makes me wonder what interest those people have in us. I mean we're small potatoes compared to chart acts, so why even waste the space to slag us off?"
spacer The result of all this is the biz structure is heavily weighted against bands like Loop. It ghettoises them to the point where ill-informed media commentators can prattle on week after week about the creative death of rock music, whereas in point offactthere are more innovative indie bands, both here and abroad, than ever before.
spacer So what's next? After two critically lauded singles on Head, '16 Dreams' and 'Spinning', and a garlanded debut album, Loop will soon have to take the next step. The inevitable contract with a major doesn't fill them with much joyapart from the money. "Because of the way the charts are compiled a lot of bands who make the jump from an indie to a major just seem to disappear," adds Robert. ". . . Often, as well, bands that set out with good intentions just bland out once they get onto a major. They are dragged down by the blandness they have to compete with. The Mary Chain I think are a good example ofthat.
spacer "I'm determined that will never happen to us. If it ever looks like our ideas are being watered down to please other people I'd knock the band on the head immediately."
spacer Familiar rhetoric? Maybe. Loop may not be ready yet to set the world alight but they provide ample central heating forthe soul and mind. And as winter drops its frosty blanket on us one couldn't ask for more. As unexpected as a win on a fruit machine.

Originally appeared in NME 12 December 1987
Copyright © NME magazine