Ultra Vivid Scene

A relatively short-lived 4AD group that took that fuzzy indie rock of Jesus and Mary and Americanized it a bit. Kurt Ralske, the group's frontman, operator, founder, was a Berklee kid whose first foray into rock was with the reverb-heavy lo-fi outfit Crash and the morose Nothing but Happiness. In '87, he started Ultra Vivid Scene and went on to release three strong albums that seemed fixated on fully integrating the Pop Hook into shoegaze tropes. Unlike, say, My Bloody Valentine, Ralske's stuff is musical to the point of sometimes being a little tough to take seriously. And the first album has this distinct undercurrent of new wave flowing through it, which gives it a certain dinkiness I can't imagine was advertent.

Probably best to start—and stick—with what's generally considered the best LP, 1990's Joy 1967 – 1990. It's a bright, peppy, and dynamic album that sounds surprisingly fresh, inventive, and while it has early 90s fingerprints smudged across it, it truly is hard to place. The precise, cutting guitar solos are more Rivers Cuomo than Kevin Shields, the pads-boosted drums are more Modern English than Happy Mondays, and... well, you get my point. Listen.

Oh, check it out! Kim Deal sings on and appears in the video for "Special One," and Moby, who was briefly in the band, makes a quick appearance in "Mercy Seat."