The House of Love

The House of Love

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For all of the band's later highlights, there's no question that this is where the group shone the best; still hungry, still focused, and not plagued by the personality conflicts that would cause Terry Bickers' acrimonious departure, the quartet served up a half-hour-long delight. Guy Chadwick's yearning vocals and ear for memorable melodies matched beautifully with Bickers' fantastic guitar, and if the recorded results didn't really show the latter at full strength (Chadwick essentially told him what to play, and he only cut loose in concert), it's still something. Check out the sudden, thrilling solo on "Salome," a fantastic song that easily equals the Church at their most thrilling and powerful, or the even-more-memorable break on the deservedly famous leadoff track "Christine," once described aptly as the Jesus and Mary Chain meets the Left Banke. The Pete Evans/Chris Groothuizen rhythm team had their own fine moments as well -- the snaky crawl of "Road" in particular suggests Echo and the Bunnymen's own brilliant work with rhythm. "Man to Child," a reflective, softly crushed ballad, won many plaudits as well, Chadwick's portrait of aging and angst deft and quietly understated, matching the similarly wistful, just-sad-enough music beautifully. However, the secret highlight of the album would have to be "Love in a Car," starting with a keening, haunting high guitar part from Bickers and then slowly evolving into an evermore tense and dramatic all-band performance. Chadwick's singing is some of his wounded best, and the final slow fade keeps all the intensity right to the end. Though a couple of cuts veer toward the okay rather than the great, plenty of other highlights suggest themselves, and the album as a whole is a high watermark for English post-punk music of the '80s.

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