Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Just the thought fills my heart with pink frost

The Summer of 1987 was a bleak time for fans of English guitar pop.

The Smiths were suddenly no more, and a nation of bedroom-bound miserables found themselves without a very favorite band. One of the first glittering hopes that arrived in the aftermath were The House of Love. The band formed in Islington in 1986, and released a series of fantastic singles, with their self-titled debut LP finally appearing in 1988 on Creation Records. Their sound was stately, shimmering and sweeping, perhaps most perfectly put on their 1988 single, "Christine". Guy Chadwick's sinister purr was backed up by Terry Bickers' wall of air-raid-siren guitar, and the song, once heard, had a knack of hanging around your brain for months afterwards. Even now, almost 18 years on, it's still a true classic of a tune, and one of the finest UK indie singles of the 80's.

The story that followed was a somewhat familiar one; band gets heaped with praise and accolades by the UK press, chart success follows, singles and albums released post-debut fail to pull off the same trick the second time around, drugs and ego and "artistic differences" take their know the drill by now. Bickers left the band a mere year after the release of their debut album, but The House of Love continued on for three more years. Despite the shadow of the debut looming large over the rest of the band's catalogue, there were some truly fantastic gems nestled in what followed, and today's selections showcase three particularly excellent rarities from The House of Love's 1990-1991 period.

( l-r: Chris Groothuizen, Guy Chadwick, Pete Evans, Terry Bickers)

First up, we've got a crackin' rocker called "Ray". Here's what Dave Roberts and Dag Nyholm's fine fansite has to say about it:

"During June and July 1989 the band entered Abbey Road studios to record their second album with Paul O'Duffy. Ten tracks were recorded including "Ray". The band and their label weren't happy with the recorded tracks and many were shelved. "Ray" was revived for the "Spy In The House Of Love" compilation in 1990 having had some of the vocals re-recorded."

The House of Love - "Ray" (MP3, 202kbps (VBR), 5.3MB)

Over the course of their career, The House of Love did a number of pretty inspired cover versions; I'd not heard their take on The Chills' "Pink Frost" until recently, and I was blown away by how well they pulled their own version off...such a beautiful song. This (as well as the next track featured) appeared on 1991's The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes EP.

The House of Love - "Pink Frost" (MP3, 199kbps (VBR), 4.9MB)

Finally, we've saved the best for last. "Purple Killer Rose" is a simmering slow-burn, with both Chadwick's vocals and Bickers' guitar work in pure slash-and-burn mode. This one truly ranks up there with "Christine", "Destroy The Heart" and a few more as one of The House of Love's mightiest moments. It's a shame that Six By Seven couldn't have tackled a cover of it before their unfortunate breakup last year, as they're one of the few bands I could imagine really nailing this one. Here's four minutes and nineteen seconds of majestic malevolence, enjoy it....

The House of Love - "Purple Killer Rose" (MP3, 197kbps, 6.2MB)

Amazingly, Chadwick and Bickers reunited for a new 2005 studio album, Days Run Away, their first together again as The House of Love, after over 15 years apart. You can find out more information about their reformation here.

That's just about it for this installment of Eat This Grenade!; we'll be back in a few days with some more noise....see you then.


fraew said...

im not sold on the chills cover, kinda lacks some of the best elements of the original (the rolling drums and the frailty / scatteredness of martin phillips voice), still - some nice picks... dug those yummy furs tracks from a couple weeks back

Mary said...

These songs are great. I'm gonna make a post for The House Of Love, soon.

Anonymous said...

great post and a nice selection of lost tracks - ray was always a favourite, and i'd recommend their 3rd lp 'babe rainbow' which has killer tunes 'feel','girl with loneliest eyes' - singles as good as the early brace of classics

went to the recent reformed live shows in 2005 - awesome

if you or anyone wants any live hol stuff mail me