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Album #302: The House of Love – The House of Love (Butterfly Album)

  • Released: 1990
  • Origin: London, England
  • Label: Fontana
  • Best Track: Shine On

A couple of weeks ago, I saw The House of Love’s ‘Shine On’ on a 1990 rerun of Top of the Pops shown on BBC Four. Here it is, in fact.

It took me by surprise, as I knew the song but didn’t think the band had ever bothered the chart much. It’s a wonderful song, and one that possibly served as the inspiration for the much loved Shine indie compilations of the ’90s, as it appears on the first of them, (although Liam Gallagher’s idiosyncratic pronunciation of “shhhyyyine” on ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ , ‘Up in the Sky’ and later ‘All Around the World’ dovetails with this) .

‘Shine On’ is one of those songs that at first just seems like a catchy chorus, but on deeper listening reveals intriguing lyrics burying all kinds of interpretations. I may be way off but it sounds like it’s using the Garden of Eden as a metaphor for loneliness. I even considered whether it’s written from the point of view of a dying young girl (“I’m so young, just eighteen”) contemplating an afterlife and therefore “shining on”.

Regardless of what it’s about, it led me to listen to the album it came from. It was the band’s second LP, and confusingly the first two are both self-titled, hence this one is widely referred to as the Butterfly Album due to its artwork.

It’s a rewarding listen. The biblical references are frequent throughout, and the songs vary from the mellow ‘Beatles and Stones’ to the upbeat ‘Hedonist’, with a rhythm and blues vibe reminding me of Jools Holland.

Unusually for me, I think I prefer the more bright, poppy numbers on this album. The lyrics to ‘I Don’t Know Why I Love You’ are as literal and direct as they come, and in stark contrast to the cryptic ‘Shine On’. ‘Never’ also stands out as a single (and indeed just missed out on being their first top 40 hit at #41), while ’32 Floor’ has the atmosphere and growing battle cry of a Jesus and Mary Chain song.

I like it a lot, and this is definitely a band to rummage through further.

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