Saturday 10th November 2018
With Thousand Yard Stare, Martin Carr and Alan McGee (DJ set)
This was a show to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of their much acclaimed debut LP which was released on Creation Records in 1988. The band featuring original members Guy Chadwick, Terry Bickers, Pete Evans and long term bassist Matt Jury played the LP in full and then a “Best of” set.
I was lucky enough to see them in November 1987 supporting the Mighty Lemon Drops at Exeter Lemon Grove. My good friend Chris Sawle was also at that gig and despite being the second support band, they completely blew us away. As a result, we decided that 30 years later we should get together to see them again. We met up in one of Camden Town’s public houses, the Camden Enterprise for a few pints before the gig. My friend Mike and I arrived first and found a corner in the somewhat busy pub and waited for Chris and Sarah join us … They arrive soon after and following introductions and a few pints, we sup up and head across the road for a night of Indie nostalgia.
Gig review by Chris Sawle …
A cold, suitably wintry November 10th, 2018, sees Sarah and I up early and heading for the Great Wen, therein to partake of the finest guitar pyrotechnics Terry Bickers and Guy Chadwick have to offer us.
It’s the occasion of the House of Love’s 30th (!) anniversary concert in celebration of their eponymous Creation release – the one with, on the cover, Guy Chadwick, cocky as ever, self-assured, staring right down the lense (“I AM enough of a cunt”, he was recollected as saying in David Cavanagh’s history of Creation Records, My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For the Prize) – with a more elfin, mysterious, black-jumpered Terry Bickers peeking into the distance, way past the camerawoman.
Yeah, that album. The album that came out when it looked like the House of Love had the world at their feet, which they so nearly did.
So there’d been loose bantering back and forth with Wibble about whether to come or not – tis, after all, a long way from Kernow to that London, and I’m sometimes a terrible Johnny-come-lately when it comes to actually buying tickets, letting the potential gig list winnow itself narrower as concert after concert sells out: but an excellent gig by Slowdive in Bristol during October left me hankering for more Creation action, and with three weeks to go, tickets were secured.
We’d become masters of the art of the quick turnaround on London gigs, what with Monday work looming; a quick shake of the LateRooms dice got us a bed in Belsize Park for the night of the gig. Arrival revealed we hadn’t rolled a six, more like a two, as our room was more or less a cupboard with a bed and a kitchenette crammed in, and heated to sauna temperatures. Still, it’s a comfy mattress, which is all that’s needed between gig and train – something we entirely dispensed with for the cracking Are You Scared To Get Happy? ten-band extravaganza at the 229 in June 2013, when we actually walked the streets all night until the first departure of the Sunday morning from Paddington.
Rinsed and ready, and down the hill to meet Wibble and Mike from Leicester at the Camden Enterprise. Now one bonus about gig travels is the great, great institution that is the London pub (remember them?) – even your bulk standard London boozer has an atmosphere and architecture that invites bonhomie. (Bristol runs a close second: see me for info on some city centre crackers). It’s rammed, cos Palace are playing Spurs in the evening kickoff, but we manage to invade a back corner pew and secure just get enough room for four. The chiefs arrive, and it’s a first meeting for Mike and I, but any friend of Wibble’s is a friend of mine and he’s a lovely guy, resplendent in a white House of Love 3×3 top, from the day they played three gigs in London in one day, (remember when white long-sleeved tops were a thing in band merch? I had a Popguns one).
On to the Roundhouse then. A legendary venue: former LNWR roundhouse and setting for so many gigs, such as the early UFO Club psychedelic happenings featuring Family, Tomorrow, The Soft Machine, and The Incredible String Band. And it is, indeed, a helluva venue – enough bars, beautifully backlit, great acoustics. So who have we got on the undercard?
Early doors and we have a short set from former Boo Radley’s songsmith Martin Carr. He’s an interesting chap, and I think the Boo Radleys have currently been dealt a poor hand by history; yes, Wake Up Boo was their pact with the devil, played way past the point of pop tolerance of any reasonable man; but earlier, shoegaze Boos still sound great: Kaleidoscope, Does This Hurt?, anything up until Lazarus still sounds really good. Even some of the post-chart topping tunes are worth a look; I recently rediscovered a 7″ of C’mon Kids and it’s a great, squally monster. The soul was long sold for the dollar by then, sadly. He’s merely a mild diversion for an excitedly filling hall, and he doesn’t quite land. Will I pick up some more early Boo 12s? I think I will. Will I ever get around to really exploring his clutch of albums for Wichita as Brave Captain? Aah, now, if there were enough hours in the day …
The filling in the bill sandwich is provided by turn of the 90s’ nearly men Thousand Yard Stare. A quick flick through the old internal index cards reveal only one reference: for a while there back in 91, I was the bassist in an incredibly short-lived Cornish shoegaze band (one gig only), the singer of whom had a little jones for this lot. I don’t recall ever hearing them at the time.
… and I’m so congratulating myself on time saved, because their slightly choppy, cocky indie rock does nothing for me at all. I’ll give them faint praise here: I think they were five years too early. The Gallagheresque strut of frontman Stephen Barnes brings Rick Witter to mind. Yeah, they could’ve been Shed Seven. A good showing of tee-shirts show a loyal fan base though, for this Slough outfit.
A sartorial aside: I’ve brought out my Kitchens of Distinction Strange Free World tee to play, as I do maybe once or twice a year for such a gig. And it’s amazing the amount of love it generates; I’m approached three times later on as booze loosens tongues and goodwill flows, with enquiries as to where I got it, what a great band they were. Kinda cool.
The expectation is really high now, butterfly tummy in full effect. The deal, we know, is to run through the debut as is, in order, then to play another selection straight away. They’re here, they’re on, and that thrilling, chiming drone of Christine sets us on our way. What an opener…
The House of Love are a brilliant example of what psychotherapists call gestalt: the whole being more than the sum of its parts. If you wanna pick them apart cold, then Guy Chadwick’s lyrics don’t really read like all that much. He has a Velvets fixation which is plain for all to see. It must be Terry then, who incidentally doesn’t failto sprinkle the guitar magic and sheer freakin’ aural joy tonight; but if you followed him through to Levitation, you’ll probably agree that he was a giant talent in need of a little, well … focus.Which is why to see The House of Love with great acoustics is such a bloody treat. They have real dynamics. Gentler, perhaps more makeweight numbers from the album, such as Man To Child are brought real depth by the emotional heft Terry Bickers wrings from the top frets. Love In A Car and Fisherman’s Tale are awesome, and at at least one point Wibble and I are in a drunken embrace, bellowing the lyrics at each other. Salome and Road see Chadwick and Bickers facing front and locked in a guitar punch that sounds just fucking phenomenal. They really were, and are, such a band.
With the merest of pauses, we’re into the second set. Hannah, long-lost flipside The Hedonist, Destroy the Heart, Safe, I Don’t Know Why I Love You: they all have so much bloody oomph live. Personal highlights are early B-sides Nothing To Me and Plastic – the latter of which I remember trying to work out the guitar break for in my teenage bedroom. Songs from when all we had to go on were a very small number of publicity and cover shots, with original bassist Chris Groothuizen and Andrea Heukamp staring out placidly, and all you really knew was what came off your 12″ and down the speaker cables.
Are there caveats and missteps? Yes, there are: one of only a couple of reformation-era tracks, A Baby Got Back On It’s Feet, sounds like a tentative rehearsal – the flow, the power isn’t there. And a London audience really does not give way to someone trying to sashay back to where they were with a couple of pints, making keeping the levels on the booze tanks stable a bit of a mish.
Wibble and I are in conversation; the House of Love were the first actual, proper band I’d ever seen (supporting The Mighty Lemon Drops at Exeter in 1987), and he was also there – he frighteningly reveals that if we leave it that long again, we’ll be in our early eighties for the next House of Love rendezvous … ah well, I’m game …
Twenty-four songs and they’re gone. For me, they can play it all again. Right fucking now, please, if it’s all the same to you. In a bid not only to depressurise, but also to hang on to that wonderful gig high, for Sarah and I it’s straight out one door and straight in another to the Roundhouse Bar, which also functions as a discrete boozer separate from the venue. More Kitchens tee-shirt praise; I recall drunkenly and tunelessly singing Prize with two lads at some point.
Two pints necked, and time relentlessly moves on; the congregation is dwindling, back into the London night; we must attempt sleep; but even on the short tube hop back up the Northern, another tee-shirt driven conversation with Shabbir, who runs the really good House of Love zine, Se Dest.
Sleep of sorts, muggy heads requiring coffee and pastries; the weary subterranean loop back to Paddington, and when can I see them again please?
- Man to Child
- Love in a Car
- Fisherman’s Tale
- Touch Me
- Beatles and the Stones
- The Hedonist
- A Baby got Back on its Feet
- Nothing to Me
- I Don’t Know Why I Love You
- Destroy the Heart
- Trouble in Mind
- Shine On