Another band scratching that reunion itch now; The House Of Love, late 80’s Indie rock guitar heroes who ploughed a similar furrow to the 60’s-influenced rockist post-punk sonic template of Echo And The Bunnymen, Wild Swans, Joy Division etc. whilst skirting around the then-prevalent, more textural and shimmering mood of the Shoegaze crowd, before being lost in the noise of Grunge and Madchester in the early 90’s. A band I saw and thoroughly enjoyed 4 times, “back in the day”, and a band who hold the distinction of being the hosts of the only 2 occasions I’d been evacuated from a gig, both times due to excessive dry ice usage! Back together with its’ original squabbling song-writing duo of vocalist Guy Chadwick and guitar hero Terry Bickers, and back releasing new material, notably current, charming CD “She Paints Words In Red”. A band whom on reflection I really should have been a much bigger fan of, back then, so will the timely revival evident on the new CD translate into the “live” environment? Or will they just choke us all with dry ice and force us scuttling outside The Fleece’s cramped environs for fresh air?
Similar old HOL fan Beef and I set off about 7, hitting the venue at ¼ to 8 and going through the new door at the back of the venue, after a slight ticket-mare for Beef! We were therefore firmly ensconced for support act Patrick Duff, former vocalist of 90’s swirly pop-psych Bristolians Strangelove. Now reinvented as a woolly-hatted acoustic troubadour with some unsettlingly deadpan between-song banter, he played a couple of bare, pastoral numbers before really cutting loose with “Maria”, a huge Scott Walker-esque tale of heartbreak and infidelity, magnificently delivered with an extraordinarily passionate voice. A brilliant song which moved me to enquire of Beef, “where did THAT come from?” and one which he never topped, although “Tourist” (“I wrote this for Amy Winehouse; I didn’t know then that she was going to die but I had a fucking good idea...") came closest. A final number about monkeys featured some entertaining mouth trumpeting, concluding a fine, impressively delivered set, which made me take notice.
The place was busier now, yet the PA announcer advised people to move down towards the front where there was more room! We were therefore a couple of rows back, centre stage, when the uniformly black-shirted House Of Love came on, fittingly, to Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again”. No dry ice or backlit strobes this time, in deference to the smaller venue, but they eased impressively into their set with a couple of newies, a Byrds-like “Low Black Clouds” followed by a rockier “Baby Got Back”, featuring the annoyingly youthful looking Terry Bickers already energetically throwing shapes, in stark contrast to his towering monolith partner in crime Chadwick. A lush “Hope” and crescendo-fuelled “ Sulphur ” delved back to that classic first album and prompted the crowd into some polite moshing, and “Road” was carried by Bickers’ haunting guitar groove.
In fact the mid-set, lower key and more mid-paced, delved equally from the first and most recent albums, highlighting Chadwick’s smooth confessional vocals and supremely crafted songwriting, and Bickers’ swirling, slightly-delic guitar licks, with a countrified “Hemmingway” and plaintive “Beatles And Stones” a notable mid-set duo. However the set roared back with a vengeance, Chadwicks’, “take it away, Terry,” heralding the instantly recognisable guitar intro to the underrated “I Don’t Know Why I Love You”, sung with startling conviction by Chadwick and the magnificent highlight of the set – to date. However this was topped with “Christine”, playfully introduced by Chadwick with, “this is called “Claudine”, I hope you like it…”, and a strident, absorbing version of their best number, melding the Velvet Underground’s droney, monotone sonics with a supreme soaring hook. An almost-equally dramatic “Love In A Car” building to a huge dramatic crescendo, ended the set, and the encore was capped with a brilliant, sinister and singalong “Shine On”.
No “Destroy The Heart” but great stuff nonetheless. Running into the guys, getting my set-list signed and reminiscing with Guy Chadwick about their Swindon gig back in the day was a fun punctuation on yet another entirely worthy reunion show. Welcome back, House Of Love!