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The House Of Love – Burn Down The World: Fontana 1989-1993 (Cherry Red Records)

What an amazing band The House Of Love truly were. Or possibly still are, as there is, allegedly, a new album called A State Of Grace on the way in September, though I haven’t heard any new output personally from them in nearly ten years, so I can’t comment on that yet.

That’s irrelevant here anyway, as this glorious boxset focuses on the three studio albums released on Fontana between 1989 and 1993, starting with that classic self titled major label debut (though I guess you could argue that previous label Creation was hardly a small indie one by the time it folded in 1999). The House Of Love, not to be mixed up with the identically titled debut album from the year before, holds up incredibly well. In all honesty, I knew it was a very good album already, but I hadn’t heard it in years, and I’m pleased to report that it’s even BETTER than I remember it.

Shine On‘ is, was, and always shall be, the pinnacle of the band’s commercial success, the original 1987 version being updated and sharpened with an irresistible intro that would see them dent the top 20 in 1990 for the one and only time. That may seem surprising, but as Wikipedia notes, the band was “beset with problems, with the band members distracted by hedonism, ego and indecision” that this new found fame brought them. Much animosity ensued, and any hope of them breaking into the realms of superstardom was all but banished for good.

It’s a pity, given the strength of a lot of material released by The House Of Love during this period. ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You‘ was another masterclass in songwriting, thrilling, addictive and intelligent, as was ‘Never‘, although the band was apparently never happy with that track as lead single, as I recall, feeling they were being manipulated into a ‘commercial singles’ band. Both fantastic records, despite what Guy Chadwick and Terry Bickers might have told you at the time (though it could be my memory playing tricks on me), they criminally both failed to reach the Top 40, each of them cruelly peaking at number 41.

Indeed, the only other foray The House Of Love made into the upper echelons of the charts was the pretty, introspective ‘Beatles And The Stones‘, which reached number 36, again in 1990. Great though it is, it’s hard to argue that many of the other tracks had more potential to make it big with the wider public.

Chief amongst these is probably opening track ‘Hannah‘, mesmeric and evocative, like a kind of Middle Eastern goth record. And if you want a dreamy, gentler track, the underrated ‘Blind‘ is hard to beat. But you could pretty much pick ANY track from The House Of Love and you can be sure it will be an absolute joy.

Other than the original twelve track album, disc one also comprises the ‘Chocolate Factory demo’ versions of half a dozen tunes – the pick of which is ‘Never‘, sounding rather like The Triffids in this guise – and a couple of live tracks with ‘Se Dest‘ in particular proving they were one of the top bands on the circuit during that period.

Despite The House Of Love (mark two) being by far the best known long player the band released, its follow up, Babe Rainbow, is arguably even better. The incendiary single ‘You Don’t Understand‘ gets things rolling, vibrant and energetic, before its follow up 7″ slows things down – at least temporarily because by the end it rocks. It’s almost like shoegaze power pop, if such a thing exists.

The intoxicating high of (aptly) ‘High In Your Face‘ and the comfort blanket warmth of ‘Feel‘ are amongst the standouts on Babe Rainbow, and let’s not forget the irresistible sway of ‘The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes‘ that’s part Chapterhouse, part Stone Roses in its winsome beauty.

Babe Rainbow‘s bonus tracks include a stripped down demo version of ‘Crush Me‘ and Eel Pie reference mixes of four numbers, the most interesting being the non-album piece ‘Thrush‘, which takes me right back to when I was 21 again. Because of the music, I hasten to add, not because it’s called ‘Thrush‘!

1993’s Audience With The Mind has some good tracks and is certainly very listenable but I would have to question the sanity of anyone who picked it as their favourite House Of Love album. That said, midway through you have the brilliant three pronged assault of the lovely ‘Shining On‘ (not to be confused with their similarly named most famous single), the wonderfully dramatic ‘Portrait In Atlanta‘ and the fantastic ‘Corridors‘, which is like the musical equivalent of a thunderstorm.

Along with the three studio albums, this boxset also includes parts 1, 2 and 3 of A Spy In The House Of Love, which collect together B-sides, 12″ versions, live takes, demos and all manner of odds and sods. It’s a comprehensive set but sadly some tracks could not be located to make it definitively exhaustive. Still, the good news is that the odd unreleased gem has been discovered here, most notably ‘Train Song‘ (on Audience With The Mind) which sounds a bit like Christopher Cross‘s ‘Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)‘ when it begins but soon eases into that unmistakable House Of Love sound. It’s a sweet song, if perhaps a little too short.

The final two discs are live ones, disc eight focusing on shows in London and New York, and disc seven, rather excitingly for me, at Leicester Polytechnic in 1990, a gig I’m 99% sure I was actually at. So now I have proof that it was as scintillating a night as I told everyone it was! And yes, that probably IS me doing a high pitched appreciative yelp after several songs, which is a tad embarrassing. But hey, I wasn’t the only one. And one of the most enjoyable moments comes when Guy Chadwick humorously chastises the audience for not coming when they first played in our city at the sadly now defunct Princess Charlotte (“there were three people and a dog, and they got in free!“)

The House Of Love are definitely one of the great overlooked(ish) bands in musical history. You need this boxset in your collection to prove why.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.