Photo of J.H. Allred from High Point College's Zenith yearbook, 1960
Sorry Prefab Sprout - this is how I like my pre-shoegaze Britpop! In 1985, Guy Chadwick of the band House of Love had a pocketful of songs that would chart the path of late-'80s and early-'90s guitar pop, and Alan McGee of the to-be-legendary Creation Records decided to give the band a chance. In '87 and '88, Creation put out several House of Love singles, as well as a self-titled album. Creation also released a compilation of the band's singles for the German market (also, somewhat confusingly, called The House of Love, although fans call it The German Album). Arena Rock Recording Company recently reissued the two long-out-of-print The House of Love records, and I've been enjoying them immensely.
Armed with wiry post-Television guitar lines, some cool sound ideas, and Chadwick's Bono-esque baritone, the House of Love's early singles make for an especially intriguing collection. I know that their first single, "Shine On", was an NME Single of the Week, but these songs are hardly well-known, which is too bad. Sequenced nicely and with inclusion of the "Destroy the Heart" single, which Arena Rock has added to the original tracklist, The German Album is as good as or better than the band's impressive debut LP.
The blazing "Shine On" and melancholy "Loneliness Is a Gun" are highlights, but the songs from the "Destroy the Heart" 12" are my favorites. The A-side is super-catchy, and the B-sides are just as good. "Blind" is one of the gentlest and most emotive songs from the House of Love's Creation-era period, and "Mr. Jo" is definitely the "shoulda-been-an-A-side" of the collection. With a jangly intro that the band later reworked into their single "Beatles and the Stones", the song has great guitar-work from Terry Bickers, including an out-of-nowhere solo that takes the song to a revved-up second section. The outro is great too, slowly releasing the built-up tension, with Chadwick delivering a startling punchline to cap it all off. I haven't heard much of the House of Love's post-Creation stuff, but the popular opinion is that they never matched the highs of their first singles, and, based on how blown away I am by The German Album, I can believe it.
"Mr. Jo" by the House of Love