House Of Love - The Fontana Years
A two CD set charting the second phase of the band after they had signed to the Fontana label from Creation. Fontana was a fresh start for the band and as if to emphasise this, the House of Love released an album called The House of Love which was the same title as the House of Love had released on Creation called, surprise surprise, The House of Love. And confused you should be. How many people have bought the wrong album as a result of that jolly jape? I actually preferred their eponymous album under the Creation label and thought they went a bit mainstream at Fontana, though occasionally they did come up with an excellent track. For this reason, and the fact that the bulk of their work came out during my musical hiatus, I never delved very far into their Fontana catalogue. This compilation was going to be enough for me.
Of the tracks, the most well-known is probably "Shine On" which amazingly was actually a success as a single in the UK. This is most unusual as the UK singles charts are usually a depressing litany of pathetic pretty boys, wailing divas singing soulless soul and the sort of music granny would like. However, well-known though it may be, it is not the best track on the album.
For that you have to look elsewhere. One contender is "Hollow". The vocal resonance on this song just gets to you after a while and you can't stop walking round like some bug-eyed goldfish impersonator mumbling "hollow, hollow" to yourself in an attempt to recreate the sound on the disk. However, the best, and certainly the most infectious song on here is "I Don't Know Why I Love You" which contains one of the great all time lines of modern popular music -
"Your face is like a hammer in my head"
This song is built upon a catchy, cascading riff with some excellent guitar work by Terry Bickers. It is also no co-incidence that it is one of the more up-tempo tracks on the album. Too much of the album, I am sad to say, consists of slow ballads desperately attempting to be miserable and yet failing to evoke the sort of emotional response from the listener that you would expect.
It would not be fair to point out some of the other mistakes on this album. I will start with "Beatles and Stones" which is just what the title suggests, a paean to the pair of them. "Baby Teen" is awful as is most of the second CD which contains most of the prime examples of this and it is this which drags the whole compilation down.
After leaving Creation, the House of Love sort of lost the plot in some ways. I ascribe that mainly to the departure of Terry Bickers, whose haunting guitars on the first self-titled Creation album were the highlights of that disc. He was apparently forced out through a drug habit, but later claimed he left because of Guy Chadwick's growing megalomania. Whatever the truth, once Guy Chadwick had sole artistic control there was a tendency to veer towards some pretty sentimental and ultimately unfulfilling music. But there can be no doubt that this partly due to the pressure being put on them to succeed, and the fact they never really did. This is a shame for they had the potential to be one of the best bands of their era.
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