Loop – Heaven’s End [reissue]

January 01, 1970



I honestly think you
ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over…

So intones an ominously calm male voice, from a 2001: A Space Odyssey clip featuring the
HAL computer not doing a very good job of reassuring astronaut Dave, at the end
of what would have originally been side 1 of 1987’s Heaven’s End, by Croyden, England, outfit Loop.
Ah, if only things were that easy. The gobbling-the-pill part, that is. Because
the sizzling sonics bookending the aforementioned clip – the whorling, backwards
phased guitars of “Heaven’s End” and the jagged, tremolo-strafed ur-punk of “Too Real To Feel” – are
about as far from stress relief as you can get. More like a descent into the
proverbial maelstrom, a nightmarish, claustrophobic, psychedelic death trip
located halfway between Altamont and
Thatcher’s Orwellian England. Yeah. But it’s a Lovely Sort of Death.

Loop existed for but a
brief blip on the alt-rock sonar, yet during their 1986-91 run enjoyed some
well-deserved notoriety for their skull-denting brand of Stooge-oid/Suicide-al
psych. The band’s uncompromising approach to fuzz/drone/wah-wah freakouts
sometimes resulted in dismissive “Spacemen 3 Jr.” labels from the press; if
memory serves, a territorial-minded Sonic Boom, from S3, may have pushed that
notion as well, resulting in cross-media sniping between the two bands, for
indeed in interviews Loop founder/guitarist Robert Hampson came across
unusually sensitive towards the accusation (although when I talked to him later
in the mid ‘90s he seemed to have gotten over it, laughing about how competitive
British bands could be).

Hampson & Co. weren’t reluctant to wear their influence
on their sleeves, though, as evidenced by the covers gracing their numerous
singles: Suicide’s “Rocket USA,” Can’s “Mother Sky,” the Pop Group’s “Thief of
Fire” and “Thief (Motherfucker)”. And in truth, they were credible contemporaries
both sonically and spiritually of My Bloody Valentine, Jesus & Mary Chain,
Swervedriver, and of course the Spacemen. Loop
left behind three official studio albums, several singles collections and a set
collecting the band’s Peel Sessions. Bandleader Robert Hampson subsequently put
together his ambitious ambient/experimental project Main
(he also performed, for a short while, with Godflesh), which lasted until about
2006, at which time he commenced operations under his own name. Meanwhile, the
other erstwhile Loop members had formed the
Hair & Skin Trading Company and released several well-regarded albums.

In any event, with the benefit of hindsight and the reissue in
hand here, Loop held its own, and then some,
carving an estimable legacy well worth rediscovering. Heaven’s End also operates as reasonably effective time capsule of
a period when Loop and their ilk were picking
up assorted ‘60s and ‘70s torches and setting their own blazes against what was
at the time a bleak British economic and cultural backdrop. Escapism through noise,
in other words, and Loop definitely brought
the noise. Check the above-mentioned pair of tunes, the fuzzed-out,
Ecstasy-fueled (or so one imagines) overdrive of “Head On” or the chugging,
knuckle-dragging, Stooges-like thump of “Straight To Your Heart”: there’s no
subtlety here, just pure brute application of force. You may want to sit down
calmly, take a stress pill and think things over when the record’s done.

A bonus CD features the band’s first, three-song Peel
Session, originally broadcast over the BBC in August of ’87; “Straight To Your
Heart” is a standout, not quite as unhinged as the LP version and boasting more
clarity in the vocal department (on the album, Hampson’s voice is typically submerged
in about three layers of echoey gunk), while the scorching “Rocket USA” is
utterly true to the sound and spirit of Suicide’s original, right down to the
headache-inducing drum machine pattern and Hampson’s sneering vox. Three
previously unreleased Heaven’s End session cuts are also present: the Suicide song, the original mix of “Head On”
(it pales, though, against the beefier and edgier LP version) and the original
mix of the wonderfully-title “Soundhead” (which in an alternate universe is
what Hampson might’ve named his band instead of “Loop”).

Heaven’s End arrives alongside 1988’s Fade Out,
each a two-disc set. (Still to come: 1987 compilation The World In Your Eyes, which will bring together all the singles,
and 1990’s A Gilded Eternity.) The
albums were remastered from the original analog tapes, and though the Reactor
label’s website indicates that in assembling the reissues it was discovered
that some of the tapes had been damaged, there are no noticeable flaws. Throw
in mini-LP packaging that reproduce the original sleeves, and you’ve got a pretty
accurate recreation of the Loop experience. It
would have been nice to have a booklet featuring liner notes that tell the
whole story, but then, Hampson was never about explaining himself – he just did

Standout Tracks: “Straight
To Your Heart,” “Rocket USA”
(Peel Session) FRED MILLS

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