Noise pop has been described by AllMusic as "the halfway point between bubblegum and the avant-garde"; the combination of conventional pop songwriting with experimental sounds of white noise, distorted guitars and drones. Accordingly, the style "often has a hazy, narcotic feel, as melodies drift through the swirling guitar textures. But it can also be bright and lively, or angular and challenging." AllMusic cites the Velvet Underground as the earliest roots of the genre, with their experiments with feedback and distortion on their early albums.
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Early American alternative rock bands like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr., who mixed rock song structures with guitar distortion, were immediate forerunners. The Jesus and Mary Chain's 1985 debut, Psychocandy, is considered by AllMusic to be the archetype for the noise pop genre ("pretty much birthed the style"). Kareem Estefan of Stylus Magazine cited the album for "transforming the use of distortion in indie rock with its screeching abrasion, yet managing to feature some of the catchiest melodies of the 80s."
Later in the 1980s, noise pop was a major inspiration for the British shoegazing movement. Influenced by The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine started to experiment with a fusion of 1960s pop music and noise on their EP, The New Record by My Bloody Valentine, paving way to their forthcoming shoegazing sound. Noise pop continued to be influential in the indie rock scene into the 1990s.