The House Of Love Babe Rainbow
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If I were to ask you, really quick, to name five great alternative guitar-pop bands: yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. All of you are correct. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that none of you included Britain’s House of Love on your list, which is too bad. The Guy Chadwick (guitars, vocals)-led band, other than The Smiths and The Church, might just be the best of the lot, The House of Love formed in the mid-1980’s in London, and despite label and personnel problems, developed quite a following in Europe thanks to a shimmering guitar sound that even sometimes had a bit of a bite. After some infighting that led to lead guitarist Terry Bickers’ departure to form the underrated Levitation, Chadwick solidified his lineup (drummer Pete Evans, bassist Chris Groothuizen, and guitarist Simon Walker,) and set about creating a serious string of top-notch, near-perfect guitar-pop records (there are pretty much three debut albums, which were available depending upon which country you lived in, and their second “album” was an album of outtakes and alternate takes, a panic move by Fontana, their record label. Despite the confusion, Chadwick and company soldiered on, eventually releasing 1992’s Babe Rainbow, which pretty much defined the House of Love sound that began on (for some, at least) their 1990 Fontana self-titled initial offering (often referred to as “The Butterfly Album.”) Babe Rainbow is pretty much a near-perfect album (ok, there ain’t one single misstep on the entire record, other than that a few songs sound similar--yes, it’s that good.) Except that “You Don’t Understand” probably threw listeners that were used to perfect pop songs such as “Shine On” for a bit of a loop. Musically, it’s as aggressive as the band’s lyrically-brilliant “I Don’t Know Why I Love You,” although angrier, only with one of alternative music’s all-time great dance backbeats (the drums and bass are fantastic and are perfect for getting your dance groove on--how danceable? Even more so than The Smiths’ “How Soon is Now?”) It’s every bit as perfect as “Shine On,” only amped up to the bejezus belt in terms of guitar-pop. It’s one of the great alternative tunes that you’ve likely never heard. Don’t worry, though, the band settled back into “beautiful shimmering guitar-pop” with “Crush Me,” a gorgeous mid-tempo tune that, as if the guitars weren’t enough, adds some lovely keyboards to keep things interesting. “Cruel,” meanwhile, while it sounds somewhat similar to “Crush Me” at times (other than the lack of keyboards,) is yet another perfect pop tune, building to a crashing crescendo full of loud guitars and some damn heavy drumming (and Chadwick has a very pleasant voice that tends to fit perfectly with the song at hand, all of which makes for some very listenable stuff.) “High in Your Face,” meanwhile, is very bass-heavy with soaring vocal harmonies and layers of subtle guitars that makes for a song that would fit on any House of Love album (if nothing else, these guys were hella-consistant.) “Burn Down the World,” on the other hand, is “dark” without actually being “dark” (credit Evans’ drumming, which sets the tone for the entire thing, and there are guitars coming in from all over the damn place, all of which perfectly fit the mood.) Like “Cruel,” this thing builds and builds, except there’s really no payoff, it just builds to a fittingly gloomy ending. And yet, thanks to the multi-layered guitar thing going on, shimmers almost as much as “Crush Me,” even if it sounds nothing like it. And “The Girl With the Loneliest Eyes” is a sad mid-tempo acoustic guitar-dominated ballad with a beautiful electric guitar section ( and just check out that very brief acoustic solo, which doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at all but maybe should have.) This is a guitar-heavy track and should be revered as such, despite it’s ballad-nature. I mentioned, earlier, The Smiths and The Church. The House of Love should have occupied the same stratosphere as those (in alternative circles) legendary acts. As it is, you can get Babe Rainbow and blow everyone’s minds with how good it actually is. If you dig alternative guitar-pop, this is one that your collection is sorely missing.