It’s Safe In A Little World

The House Of Love played The Albert Hall, Manchester on Friday night. I saw them a handful of times back in 1988-1990 (a gig at Widnes days before Terry Bickers was kicked out of the band was memorable for the wrong reasons and one in March 1990 with his replacement where they didn’t seem to catch fire both stick in the mind). Guy Chadwick and Terry re-united a while back, buried hatchets and put demons to rest and released an album of new songs which was fairly well received but the main draw of this current tour is the promise of the debut album played in full. Which is what they do, opening with Christine and then blazing their way through the Hope, Road and Sulpher, the twin frontmen dressed in floral shirts and dark trousers, even their wardrobe choices still in that brief period between the end of The Smiths and the arrival of The Roses and the Mondays. On record the album is covered in a sheen, producer Pat Collier’s 1988 haze. Live they are a little looser and more ragged but none the worse for it. The star here is Bickers, who occasionally explodes into life careering round his side of the stage with jolts, dropping to the floor, scissor kicks, all the while playing those startling lead guitar lines which are imprinted into my musical DNA. The two slower songs from the album Fisherman’s Tale and Love In A Car glower and then detonate. It’s good stuff, done well, without the issues that scuppered them 30 years ago- Bickers with his guilt about selling out and subsequent behaviour on the tour and Chadwick’s desperation to ‘make it’.

Once the album is done they seem to relax a little, actually speak to the audience and set about a second half of B-sides and other songs, all from the period between signing to Creation and the first album for Fontana (the Butterfly album). 1991 song Marble is a blast, a Camberwell version of the Velvet Underground for radio. Safe, a B-side from the 1989 single Never (but could have and should have been a single) bristles and burns. They introduce I Don’t Know Why I Love as their Tina Turner song and then roar through it, Bickers guitar playing loud and to the fore. Early pre-debut album songs like Real Animal and Love get played and they finish with the pairing of Shine On and Destroy The Heart (John Peels’ single of the year in ’88). Everyone seems happy. To quote my brother’s friend, a more succinct review than this one, ‘it was good, I enjoyed it’.

Marble

Safe

The Spy

Listening to some of 2017’s shoegaze survivors put me in mind of 1988’s great indie guitar hopes, Creation’s House Of Love. Signed in 1987 Guy Chadwick, already a veteran of several bands but in 1986 inspired by seeing The Mary Chain, put a band together from an advert in Melody Maker and Terry Bickers dropped into his lap. Bickers was an understated but mercurial whizzkid. Much of the ‘sonic cathedrals’ aspect of shoegaze can be traced back to Bickers wall of fuzz and melody. Singles Christine and Destroy The Heart took them to the top of the Festive Fifty and the NME and briefly they looked like the boys most likely to. Then drugs, disagreements, major label problems and ego took over- and so did Manchester- and they never really recovered (despite making some songs that still stand up on various follow up lps and singles). But as well as the indie shimmer they could also be direct and full on. Road is drama filled, widescreen late 80s indie, chiming, ringing guitars and existential dread in the vocals followed by Guy’s indie boy dream of freedom- ‘Steal a car, the highway calls, stick some pins, in your toes, suck your cheeks, dance boy down the road’.

Road

Album track Salome enters on driving drums and a killer riff before Guy comes in with ‘I love the way she cries…’ Bickers fires off blasts of guitar. Echoes of The Bunnymen in this one, not least Chadwick’s closing lines ‘Salome is dead, the king is free… I’m sailing on the sea’.

Salome

The dreamier side of them is captured well on this 1989 appearance of Channel 4’s Big World Cafe. Whatever it is, they had it briefly.

Lay Right Down In My Favourite Place

This has been added to a recent re-release of The House Of Love’s debut album, a live cover version of I Wanna Be Your Dog. Pretty standard fare you might think- it’s an easy song to cover, it’s a lot of fun to play, it stakes your left-field credentials as a Stooges fan. To be fair Guy Chadwick doesn’t really try to out-Iggy Iggy but the twin guitar work is a joy and this is a top quality live recording sound-wise. It also sounds like the mic was about three inches from Terry Bickers amp.

I Wanna Be Your Dog

I’m The Window Fitter (In The House of Love)

It turns out that recent postees The House Of Love have got a new album out and are doing a short tour in April. When I’m going to be away. Damn.

Terry Bickers and Guy Chadwick have reunited. There’s no real change in direction- Guy’s voice and lyrics could have been cut and pasted from the late 80s and Terry’s guitar playing is as good as ever. An article in Sunday’s Observer claimed that Guy made/makes a living by fitting windows in South London. It also says that near the end of the Bickers first tenure in the band he spoilt a gig in Wales by singing Sham 69 songs over the band’s own songs. I saw them at Warrington a few days before he was dumped by the side of a motorway and his backing vocals and playing that night seemed to be almost deliberately off key and out of time- but I don’t recall him singing the words to Borstal Breakout over Christine. I’m pretty tempted by their new lp. But it’s probably mainly nostalgia on my part.

The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes

The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes was an end period song from The House Of Love when everyone, probably including the band themselves, had given up on them. It isn’t up there with their peerless, perfect early records on Creation, with all those FX and wobbly guitars, but for a band (in 1993) totally out of time and running out of ideas it isn’t half bad. In fact it shimmers.

The Girl With The Loneliest Eyes

House Creation


House Of Love Creation that is. What was funny in the Creation documentary the other night was a couple of Creation talking heads saying that they were all ‘working class boys’ and then Guy Chadwick turned up ‘talking like Kenneth Branagh’. British music like British society is class obsessed. And class riven. No matter- very briefly the House Of Love had ‘it’. They lost it pretty quickly, but for a while it was theirs. This is another Creation Peel Session song, from August 1988, featuring the slow burn drama of a great track from their debut album.

>Meetings With Footballers 2

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One night in either 1988 or 1989 a group of us are outside Liverpool University Students’ Union. The House Of Love are playing the smaller venue in the Union, the Stanley Theatre. I saw them on their previous tour. Another band are playing the larger Mountford Hall. My memory tells me it was The Fall but it could’ve been The Wonderstuff. I know at around the same time we went to see the up-and-coming Charlatans instead of The Fall. Choices, choices. None of these cost more than a couple of quid. We were spoilt I tell you. Well, except for the Wonderstuff. Anyway, we were outside the Union and a man on crutches approaches us, floppy hair and Scottish accent- ‘Excuse me lads, can you tell me where The House Of Love are playing?’ As one of us begins to direct the man down the road, an Evertonian among us says ‘Hey, you’re Pat Nevin’. Pat Nevin, formerly of Clyde and Chelsea, at the time Everton’s injured winger, scuttles off as fast as his crutches will take him. I don’t know what he thought we might do to him, but it was the 1980s. Football was yet to become what it is today.

The House Of Love were riding high when Destroy The Heart was released on Creation, and it’s shimmering guitars and pent-up drama are still exciting today. They left for Fontana and never really recovered. Pat Nevin has since dj-ed at Bowlie Weekender, not having the usual footballer’s musical tastes.