The Kitchens of Distinction's early comparisons ran the gamut from Echo and the Bunnymen and the Chameleons to older fret-benders like Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix. What the comparisons were all aiming to describe was the band's secret weapon -- Swales' awesome abilities on guitar, which created tenderness and overdriven power. On Love Is Hell, the band's debut, the Kitchens sound like they're feeling their way around a studio, with rougher, punkier edges on some numbers (notably the thrashy rant against the workday grind, "Mainly Mornings"). More impressive still is how well Fitzgerald's thoughtful, passionate lyrics and singing match Swales' work in so many different ways throughout the record -- tenderly evocative on "In a Cave," increasingly agitated during the bitter "Prize," and downright soaring on "The 3rd Time We Opened the Capsule." This last song has a perfect Kitchens moment, with a rushing, joyful guitar break followed by Fitzgerald's forceful delivery of "I want the light to shine/Right in my eyes!" "Her Last Day in Bed" starkly visits a deathbed scene with a sheer, frightening feel heightened by violin, while the climactic "Hammer" views a pick-up gone terribly wrong with increasingly distraught lyrics and music. Intelligent, intricate, and unafraid to rock and caress equally, Love Is Hell is an incredible first effort. Later editions of the record add the Elephantine EP (including the biological/political ruminating title track), a delicious death-to-Thatcher fantasy titled "Margaret's Injection," and the bittersweet end-of-a-relationship portrayal "1001st Fault."
AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett