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House Of Love
Live At The BBC Mick Middles , March 24th, 2009 15:25

The big noise that imploded. As Madchester flared elsewhere, House of Love carried an alternative hope for Creation, capturing acres of footage in the Danny Kelly-led NME and looking certain to rise significantly from the blackened indie-cellars of Britain.

Success really did seem assured as, unlike so many of their peers, House of Love, balanced on the unsteady alliance between Guy Chadwick and Terry Vickers, brought an abundance of melody into the indie arena. Embryonic scratchiness soon faded to be replaced by a barrage of songs… great songs.

We now look back to their subsequent implosion. It was a failure stacked full of rock’n’roll cliché. A band that started taking themselves so-very-seriously. Agitation at the record company. A mess of in-studio bickering and a tendency to overwork their own songs. By the time we were heading towards the initial stirrings of Britpop, House of Love had fallen from that NME governed pedestal. Time and music moved on. Creation’s Alan McGee, who started to wear sunglasses at the point of signing House of Love, became openly exasperated with his charges. Egos were clashing all over the place.

To be honest, early 90s indie is an arena I tend not to visit all that often. Too many memories of beery dirges in Manchester’s Boardwalk, or catching lacklustre Goth sets in Lancaster University, for my liking. Also, I must declare, I hardly spent such days clinging to House of Love in a state of witless adoration. As such, I wasn’t exactly jumping with glee when this new ‘live’ album flickered into view. What space is there for House of Love, of all bands, in 2009? What relevance remains?

Surprisingly enough, time has been rather kind to House of Love. The 19 songs that feature here – all recorded live by the BBC in five separate locations, from Preston to The Marquee, offer something that was always lacking in any of their overblown albums. The essential spark, lost amid band politic, certainly lay within their live dynamic. As such, revisiting such indie classics as the band’s first single, ‘Shine On’ or the sublime 'Christine' (indie love-angst of the uppermost drawer) proves more than merely rewarding. I don’t recall them being THIS good.

There is so much more. The supreme and slightly ironic ‘The Beatles and The Stones’ now finds that it has provided echoes for Interpol, Editors or even – listen hard – Bloc Party. Now there is a new-found relevance for you. It settles in place with the broody opener, ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ with its romantic nod to Moz. A heartfelt stance that return later on both ‘Christine’ and ‘Girl With the Loneliest Eyes’. You didn’t have to dress in black and spend your days kicking through fallen suburban leaves, but surely it helped.

I only mock gently. Truth is, the band’s rather violent implosion has frozen them to their lasting credit. Imagine just what a horrid bunch of pouting superstars they would have become, had the USA grasped the point! Imagine how tepid their latter-day albums would have sounded.

It is selfish of me, I know, but I prefer the here and now of House of Love Live At The BBC, which carries me to an era of possibilities. It’s still the sound of a band bent on stardom but, nevertheless, their struggle is as real as it gets. And that sense of suppressed desperation underpins every one of these 19 tracks; they sought greatness but it was there all along.

Danny Kelly, huge admirer, was right all along. Who’d have thought?