The House of Love

The House of Love (Butterfly)

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Following the combination of indie success and massive hype leading up to the band's first album proved to be too much for the original lineup, with Bickers leaving after a series of problems and pressures once the group signed to Fontana. Yet rarely has a fraught series of recording sessions resulted in something so flat-out stunning. The House of Love's second self-titled album in a row -- third counting the German singles comp -- remains something of a high-water mark in what can loosely be termed U.K. post-punk music, acting as an effective final statement before the onslaughts of Madchester, grunge, and Brit-pop. It's almost impossible to tell who is more responsible for what on the album, given its stitched-together nature, but whatever Bickers contributes matches Chadwick's cool but never cold performances note for note, and the result is deep blue rapture. Starting with the snaky crawl of "Hannah," sidling in over a series of echoed guitar notes, the 12-song collection does everything from revisiting past heights to scaling new ones. "Shine On" gets re-recorded in an arguably much more powerful performance, Evans' drums and Bickers pounding away out in front, while one early B-side, "The Hedonist," is turned from a light acoustic number into a evocative modern blues. Another, "Blind," is changed very little, its simple fragility still holding a soft sway. Everything else is new and quite often stunning, building on the combination of power and emotion from the first album perfectly. "I Don't Know Why I Love You" remains the group's definitive single, three and a half minutes of romantic angst matched by a fiery, perfectly arranged performance. "Beatles and the Stones," meanwhile, far from being a nostalgia piece, refers to the bands in question as "[making] it good to be alone," with a rich, melancholic acoustic performance to boot. Add in the fiery performances on songs like "32nd Floor" or "In a Room" and the result is a true lost classic.

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