The House of Love (1990) ***1/2
This is actually their third album of the self-titled name, with a collection of singles and a debut album preceding it. Caught between shoe-gaze, post-punk, and Brit-pop somewhere in the vicinity of Madchester without quite fitting into any of those genres, this band likewise fell between the cracks commercially, despite "I Don't Know Why I Love You," receiving substantial American airplay. Thus it's become an overlooked gem if not quite a lost classic; the band don't quite forge a unique sonic signature out of their melange of U2-meets-the-Smiths-meets-J&MC-etc. influences, and guitarist/vocalist Guy Chadwick's songwriting is competent but only ocassionally stunning. Aside from the lead single, the remake of a previous single, "Shine On," is easily the second highlight, and those two tracks are such standouts they threaten to overshadow the rest. But there's also the dreamy, Church-like (as in the band, dummy) "Hannah," that opens the album on a jangly atmospheric note, as well as the quietly evocative tribute "The Beatles and the Stones," which sounds little like either and is actually more of a tender nostalgia piece for the flower-power era (I suppose this is the appropriate place to point out that Chadwick's lyrics can sometimes be a bit dodgy - "Put the V in Vietnam"?). "Hedonist," in particularly grates with its insistent Jesus references, but hey, the Stone Roses did "I am the Resurrection," and let's not even begin to mention U2. There are a few too many listless ballads like "Blind," and "Someone's Got To Love You," that I can't quite remember even after glancing back over a lyric sheet, but overall the album is a solid, pleasant listen for those hankering after the missing link between Echo & the Bunnymen and Oasis.