Song of the day: HOUSE OF LOVE – Love In A Car (1988)

In today’s Guardian there’s a review by David Peschek of the House of Love’s gig at Koko in London where they played their first album in its entirety, with attendant singles, as part of the Don’t Look Back series. Reading it took me back, and made me dig out the album.

The House of Love burned like a magnesium flare – brightly, brilliantly, but all too briefly. I first encountered them supporting Felt at the University of London Union in the winter of 86/87 – albeit just the last couple of songs. It was enough to leave me convinced. Two months on, they played with Felt again at some club in the Strand whose name I’ve long forgotten. They were absolutely astonishing – it remains one of the most incandescent half hours I’ve ever witnessed. A year later, they came to headline Manchester’s Boardwalk, and the magic had just gone. I’ve no idea what happened. They’d shed fifth member Andrea Neukamp, but still had Terry Bickers on board. They were good, but just lacked something. By the time I saw them for a fourth and final time at Manchester Poly in October 1988, they were just a shadow of their former selves. Their time had gone.

Before it did, though, they left three classic singles – “Shine On”, “Christine” and “Destroy the Heart” – and one flawless LP behind them (the other Creation 45, “Real Animal”, was a bit of a misfire). They were unfortunate in that they bloomed just as the house music boom was starting, and indie fans were dividing into two factions – those into the likes of the Roses, Mondays, Primal Scream and their ilk, and those who were turning to American post-hardcore like Husker Du, Sonic Youth and Firehose. The House of Love’s enigmatic guitar pop didn’t really fit in. I remember getting a pitying look from one of the notoriously rude staff at Manchester’s Eastern Bloc when I bought the album.

House Of Love, the album, was brief. Ten songs whizzed passed in half an hour. There was no fat on any of them, and no filler on the record – even the titles were short and pithy. The group could have bulked the record out with previously released material, but apart from “Christine”, all of the songs were unique to the album. Two songs into side two, the band delivered their finest three minutes.

“Love In A Car” opens with a two chord, shimmering peal, and glides along with an awesome grace and beauty. There is a moment of stillness half way in when Bickers holds an impossibly high note that then cascades and fades like the aftermath of an orgasm. Which is appropriate, because the subject matter of the song is exactly what the title implies it is:

My love in a car
We’re gonna go far
It’s a beautiful car, my love
You touch, I dream
No words – just the faintest glow
My love in a car

It’s so deep here
Let your sweat fall on me

We stared at the trees
They seemed to be
Bare as a desert breeze
At night now it’s cold
I feel just like yesterday’s boy
My love in a car

Licked my fingers
And I drove my car to the sea

My love in a car
We’re gonna go far
Deeper than any sea
Deeper than any sea
Deeper than any sea

It’s an astonishing track that never fails to give me goosebumps.

The band signed to Fontana, and even had a couple of minor hits, but they’d somehow morphed into a bog-standard corporate ‘indie’ band. They did a track called “Lost Outside The Tunnel” for a Peel session which had all the flair and excitement of their Creation work, but it was a fleeting return to form. They split in 1994, but regrouped a decade later for Days Run Away. The album was well-received. I have to confess, I’ve never heard it. It didn’t even occur to me to listen. Perhaps I should.


One response to “Song of the day: HOUSE OF LOVE – Love In A Car (1988)

  1. Love in a Car is an amazing song. 20 years on and that album is as brilliant as the day it was released. I think their second album is outstanding too. “In a Room” is the best driving song ever despite being a sad love song as it morphs from ‘And it broke me like a flower baked in the sun, A hot Spanish sun’ to “I cant’ slow down”. Babe Rainbow despite the iffy cover is a solid album too.

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