Before we examine this compilation more closely, I would like to indulge in some personal reminiscing. The House of Love will always have a special place in my heart because back when my eldest son, Wesley, was three, he loved singing along to the version of “Shine On” that appeared on the House of Love’s eponymous major label debut. That is the one with the butterfly on the cover and commonly referred to as Fontana. I remember that he would become particularly animated whenever the introduction of the song wafted through the speakers, his beady eyes would dart around in anticipation for the pay-off chorus when he would burst out singing—“Shi. Shi-shi-shi-shine on”. Priceless.
Which, if nothing else, speaks of the sheer effectiveness of the melody of that sublime song, the original version of which featured as the band’s debut single for Alan McGee’s legendary Creation Records in the late 1980s. Though it and the follow-up “Real Animal” sold poorly, McGee approved the recording of a full-length House of Love album, which was duly issued a year later to critical acclaim in the band’s native UK and a cult audience developed. This would result in a little bidding war for the House of Love’s signature and the band moved over to Phonogram Records soon after to release four albums before disbanding in 1994 due to public indifference.
More than a decade after their initial public airing, these early recordings (the debut LP plus four singles) have been deservedly collected to provide a sense of perspective on the House of Love’s place in the history of British guitar pop. In hindsight, it is clear that the psychedelic, ringing, textural guitar rock sound (informed by the weight of its Beatles-Stones-Velvets-Pink Floyd influences) that the House of Love promoted would be influential to the “shoegazer” movement of the early 1990s (e.g., Ride and Chapterhouse) and the ethereal pop musings of the late 1990s (e.g. Radiohead, Coldplay and Muse).
However, despite the obvious quality of quintessential House of Love material like “Christine”, “Destroy the Heart” and of course, “Shine On”, one cannot help feeling that this collection is a tad superfluous in light of the more selective and definitely comprehensive Best Of that came out in 1998, which includes also stellar material from the Phonogram albums, as well as the aforementioned “Christine” and “Destroy the Heart”. To be fair, however, both collections would probably provide any party interested in the House of Love with a concise overview, especially when The Creation Recordings highlights such choice gems as “Love in a Car”, “Salome” and “Nothing to Me”.
Fans of the current wave of British guitar pop could do worse than to check out this truly influential band.