Burn Down the World: The Fontana Years 1989-1993

The House of Love

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Burn Down the World: The Fontana Years 1989-1993 Review

by Tim Sendra

The House of Love recorded two excellent albums for Creation in the late '80s that fused dark melodies with coruscating guitars topped majestically by Guy Chadwick's cold and often forbidding vocals. They were popular enough that the band was courted by major labels; they signed with Fontana in 1989 and stayed with them until their first breakup in 1993. Burn Down the World covers this era in minute detail and includes the three albums they recorded during that time span (1990's The House of Love, 1992's Babe Rainbow, and 1993's Audience with the Mind) along with three full discs of non-LP songs and two discs made up of live performances. The three albums are combined with bonus tracks, too, mainly demos that show a different, less-produced side of the band. It gives fans a chance to compare the full, slightly overblown production they were sometimes saddled with to the stripped-back style that allows the songs to breathe a little bit more. The live takes also reveal some of the power and bite that were often paved over by producers who were overly reliant on effects and atmosphere. The live recordings are all well-chosen, with excellent sound quality and fine, often fiery performances. The acoustic shows are especially nice to hear as Chadwick and co. benefit in more relaxed surroundings than a listener accustomed to their studio albums might expect. The three discs of B-sides, EP tracks, different mixes, and demos -- each titled A Spy in the House of Love -- serve as clearing houses for their prolific output, and show off both kinds of songs (songs that were good enough to have made the cut on an album, and songs that could be filed away as [usually] noble experiments). It's a lot of fun wading through these and adding them up. The good songs far outweigh the bad, and there are some hidden gems to be discovered. The band's loping take on the Chills' "Pink Frost" is lovely; the 1989 B-side "Safe" is one of their most dramatic and involving songs; 1992's "Love 10" is a gentle dream of a tune that amply displays the group's softer side, and "Let's Talk About You" is a wonderfully relaxed country-psych-meets-baggy ballad. Burn Down the World might not change the opinion of those who feel House of Love may have been better served staying with Creation (a label which can call Chadwick an associate), but it does show that the group wasn't completely chewed up and spit out by the major-label machine. The House of Love remains a big pop classic and the rest of this well-compiled set reveals quite a lot of music that's nearly as good.

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