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The House of Love – She Paints Words in Red – Review

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I will live the rest of my life forever ashamed that I was born in the 1980’s, generally a dreadful decade for music. It wasn’t all bad, of course, but the sheer number of musical acts buried by the reverb-and-echo orgy that dominated production values in that lost decade condemned the more talented and genuine artists like Chrissie Hynde, the Pixies and the Clash to the deeper recesses of the collective consciousness. It was the decade of the superficial egomaniacal showmanship of Michael Jackson, Madonna and U2, and “rock” became something safe performed by nice guys like Huey Lewis and The News. It was so bad that we needed a band as debilitated as Nirvana to come to the rescue and reacquaint us with raw, raucous sound.

I’ve noticed with some amazement that a lot of 80’s bands are attempting comebacks, and 80’s music fans are all atwitter. Depeche Mode and Duran Duran are almost in vogue again! My worst nightmare!

Given my aversion to anything 80’s, from Ronald Reagan to The Beastie Boys, I’m rather surprised that I’m reviewing the latest from The House of Love. I loathed their 80’s music, which seemed to combine the worst of faux psychedelia and 80’s gloss. They fell apart rather quickly, re-formed in 2005 (and event to which I paid no attention whatsoever) and have now released a new studio album, She Paints Words in Red. As I never allow bias to enter into the new release sampling process, I listened to the album samples on iTunes just like I would for any other artist. I also popped into their past for a quick refresh, and I did find that they had a gift for melody that I had overlooked, but the production still managed to remove any other signs of life out of their music.

Much to my surprise, I rather liked what I heard from the samples. I even believe that I allowed a tiny smile to take shape on my pretty little face. “What the fuck,” I said to myself, and navigated my way to Amazon to buy the CD (for a buck less than they charge on iTunes).

Doesn’t Apple have enough cash to be able to cut us a break?

Anyway, I did my usual thing and listened to the album three times in a row. Much to my surprise and delight, I liked every song on the album. I can’t even say that about Revolver! Now, She Paints Words in Red may not approach the artistic and influential power of that masterpiece, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a strong contender for my 2013 Favorite Albums list. Knock me down with a feather!

“A Baby Got Back on Its Feet” opens the album, an up-tempo song with great feel and melodic movement. Guy Chadwick may lack the depth and power of a great singer, but his timbre makes his vocals very appealing and, as he demonstrates throughout the album, he has surprising range across the octaves (with a little help from falsetto). Here his low-register vocal rides over various well-executed rhythmic shifts, and his opening lyrics grabbed me right away as an occasionally hyperactive insomniac:

And I’m rushing and I want to sleep
I think too much about the things that keep me all strung out
Lying in the night with my eyes wide open and the images screaming out

Little things often make or break a song, and I just love the way they extend the second line beyond the rhyme (sleep/keep), following the flow of the song instead of the rhyme scheme. Brilliant!

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