A LIVE ALBUM MIGHT SEEM AN UNINSPIRING WAY FOR THE HOUSE OF LOVE TO KEEP UP ANY MOMENTUM GENERATED BY 2013’s SHE PAINTS WORDS IN RED (A FIRST STUDIO ALBUM IN EIGHT YEARS), BUT, HAPPILY, FOR BAND AND THOSE WHO BUY IT, LIVE AT THE LEXINGTON (OUT NEXT WEEK) TURNS OUT TO BE NOT JUST A STOPGAP BEFORE A NEW STUDIO ALBUM, BUT A SOLID REMINDER OF WHAT IT IS THAT SET THE BAND APART FROM THEIR LATE ’80s / EARLY ’90s PEERS.
The House Of Love were occasionally touted as ‘the band U2 could have been’, and there were similarities; euphoric choruses of epic scope offsetting anaemic or hemmed-in verses; broodings, bliss-outs and amphetamine string-ups. The House Of Love, then, were the deeply bohemian U2; all the right influences scything through Guy Chadwick’s autumnal melodies. American acid-rock, The Velvet Underground, Arthur Lee’s Love, The Stooges, Bowie, The Jesus And Mary Chain and Echo And The Bunnymen all played their part. The guitar genius – not so much The Edge as ‘living on the edge’ – was dangerous Terry Bickers, his blood red wine spite-riffs staining the crushed velvet grandeur of uptight Chadwick’s songwriting. It was a push-pull of intoxicating tension. There was nobody doing quite what The House Of Love were doing when they were doing it. They were around just long enough to see a couple of surprise (major label) hits fall through the cracks but pyrotechnician Bickers and erudite Chadwick were perhaps far intimidating a drug for the unambitiously weedy mood of post-C86 UK indie. Too exotic a pill to swallow?
Live in concert twenty-five years on from the release of The House Of Love’s debut album (LIVE AT THE LEXINGTON was recorded in 2013 at an intimate show in the London venue), the older songs have lost none of their sense of flight, despite the much more grounded performances. Succinct early single DESTROY THE HEART – the spidery bastard cousin to Echo & The Bunnymen’s THE PUPPET and U2′s I WILL FOLLOW – opens the gig in flailing fashion and is soon followed by CHRISTINE’s wall-of-sound white-out metronomic drone and the burn-out of SE DEST. Those aforementioned hit singles, SHINE ON and THE BEATLES & THE STONES, of course, make appearances here – and it’s a play-to-your-strengths set-list seemingly designed to put just a few of the band’s newer songs into a wider context. PURPLE KILLER ROSE (a new and old song; a 1991 b-side reworked for SHE PAINTS WORDS IN RED) and single BABY GOT BACK ON ITS FEET (degrees of alienation: “Little people / Beep, beep, beep”) work well but the only misfire is LOST IN THE BLUES, which seems a little too prosaic for its ‘classic’ surrounds.