Fresh from the vault (4)

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The House Of Love’s first two albums are landmarks of British Alternative pop, channelling the spirit of ‘60s psychedelia without resorting to crude pastiche. Following their second – the still remarkable –  “Butterfly”, featuring THoL’s closest brush with mainstream success, “Shine On”, their lead guitarist, Terry Bickers was unceremoniously offloaded in the wake of a drug-fuelled depression. His next project, Levitation surfaced a year or so later, producing an EP (After Ever) and a compilation (Coterie) whilst touring extensively. They were, in Bickers’ own words, ‘…progressive… but totally in the now’ Their debut LP (and masterwork) wouldn’t appear until 1992, however:

“Need For Not” is very much an album of two halves, with opening track, “Against Nature” setting the agenda for the first half: rocking far harder than anything in the HOL’s catalogue, it’s driven by Dave Francolini’s hyperactive drum fills and the intwined riffage of Bickers and (Cardiacs’ protégé) Christian ‘Bic’ Hayes. The next two tracks follow in the same vein, before “Resist” drops the tempo somewhat: a dreamy Bickers’ vocal floating on the swell of guitar noise, imparting to the track something of a Shoegaze feel. “Arcs Of Light And Dew” begins in similar mode, but this is where the album really opens up, with Robert White’s keyboard work becoming more prominent in the mix and distorted riffs supplemented by more intricate guitar flourishes. Over – a vinyl-centric – forty-four minutes, loud/quiet, fast/slow, noise/melody contrasts are explored to dramatic and unsettling effect, and even the more rocking material is infused with the trippy ‘otherness’ that characterised THoL’s best work. It’s a short listen by today’s standards, but every track, and the album as a whole swells with grandiose intent, climaxing with the shifting textures of “Coterie”, which twinkles menacingly before a controlled explosion and long fade brings band and listener back down to Earth, exhausted and exhilarated in equal measure.

Bickers suffered another breakdown whilst touring Need For Not and dramatically quit the band onstage, nixing any chance of a follow-up (although a part-completed album with replacement singer Steve Ludwin was released in Australia prior to the band’s dissolution). Hayes, Francolini and, bassist Laurence o’ Keefe have resurfaced in various projects since – most notably Dark Star, Mikrokosmos and Dragons – but never quite re-captured the intensity and focus of this astounding album .

World Around:

Smile:

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