Jangle Pop is a style of alternative rock that developed around the beginning of the 1980’s. The difference between this genre and alternative rock is the revival of the ‘jangling’ or ‘chiming’ guitar sounds from pop music in the 1960’s. Twelve-string electric guitars were incorporated, rather than the typical six string guitars, and ‘power-pop’ was a key influence. Power-pop originated in the 1960’s in both the US and the UK. Guitar riffs were a focal point, as were clearly executed vocal harmonies and prominent melodies. There was a very limited use of instrumental solos, with the structure similar to typical Pop songs; the focus on the verses and choruses. Tom Petty, R.E.M and the Smiths are regarded as being within the Jangle Pop genre.
The genre takes its roots from rock and roll, folk rock, post-punk and power pop. Folk rock is perhaps the biggest influencer, which we see typically reflected within instrumentation of Jangle pop, and also lyrical themes. Both electric and acoustic and bass guitars feature within folk rock and Jangle Pop, with the latter using electric guitars more heavily to create the ore distorted sounds and sense of ‘jangling.’ The Rickenbacker guitar was a favourite of those creating Jangle Pop, with its sound being praised and even endorsed by the Beatles themselves for those who wished to replicate the Jangle sound. The Beatles famously produce such a sound on songs such as, ‘Ticket to Ride,’ ‘What You’re doing,’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ The Hollies, The Beach Boys and The Who to name a few went on to use the innovative twelve string Rickenbacker in their music.
It is difficult to pinpoint where the name ‘Jangle’ actually came from. Some believe it is taken from a Byrds’ lyric from a cover of a Bob Dylan song, ‘In the Jingle Jangle of the morning.’ Others argue that it is a result of onomatopoeia, the name coming from the sound the Rickenbacker guitar makes, especially on the strings in the higher register.
The lyrics of Jangle Pop were typically of a cryptic nature, which made the genre perhaps less accessible to some, which may have led to the decrease of its popularity as a genre. Equally, the aim was not for an especially ‘clean’ sound, and as such, more amateurish methods were used in recording and production, further distancing Jangle Pop from the standard Pop genre, and again, perhaps resulting in disapproval from some listeners, as part of the appeal of Pop is the clear cut sound and ‘perfect’ recording quality.
Today, Jangle Pop is still around, with some bands such as My Bloody Valentine using the style, and also the continual popularity of bands such as The Smiths, however, generally, the technique is rarely used. Despite this, we can continue to see its influences in Rock music for example, with the use of distortion within guitars to create odd sounds, and also in more ambient music wherein chimes and guitars feature prominently.