House of Love, Butterfly – Retro CD Review

To say this is a Britpop album would be far too simple; however, it really is one of the forerunners to that movement. The sounds of the guitars of Guy Chadwick and Simon Walker jangle like Britpop, but distort, delay and float like a Jesus & Mary Chain that’s in love with the beauty of the world. Chadwick is effortless and casual with his vocals, and almost wry in the phrasings of his lyrics. He doesn’t hit any particularly high notes, and he doesn’t have to. This album really does prove that all too often the whole is better than the parts.

“Hannah”, the opening track on the album, fades in with a swirl of delayed feedback. The watery-sounding backing electric guitar noise backs a very sparse but complete sound with miniscule percussion, bass drum and hi-hat to be exact, as well as light bass guitar and acoustic guitar. It then bursts onto the scene with its chorus. “Hannah” is an excellent track. The whole song is just COMPLETE.

The second track, “Shine On”, was the first single released for the album, despite the band’s objection. I would have to agree with them. Although it is not a particularly bad song, it also is not a particularly outstanding song. The melody carries it most of the way, and at times the lyrics are flavorful, but too often they feel a little obtuse, and the middle bridge feels forced. The ending is about as perfect as you can get with an extended ending, though.

We have to mention “Beatles & the Stones”, because it would be sacrilege not to do so. This song sounds nothing like either of those bands, but fits so well that you would think that Guy Chadwick was carrying a cucumber in there. It is about the best song that could reference either or both groups in one line. Short, sweet acoustic guitar strummings which are overlaid by that liquid electric guitar sound and a soft pitter-patter of percussion, touched here and there with the kiss of a string section. “Shake & Crawl” follows in the same pattern, with a hint of slide guitar and some light organ work. Chadwick’s vocals slip softly and soulfully through the ether of his tunesmithing. The feeling of the album is lost a little on the song “Hedonist”, which approaches with a stomp of a goose-step type march while attempting a blues-based pound-out. A funny little tune, not without its own special qualities, but it seems to detract from the overall album feel.

The last track on the first side of this album (I am listening to it on cassette, you’d better believe it), “I don’t Know Why I Love You”, was the second single released from the album, and when you hear it, you’ll understand why it was; more importantly, you will NOT understand why it failed to do well in the British charts. This is definitely one of the best singles that came out of the UK during either decade, 1980s OR 1990s. There are elements of rawness of rock and roll, but with the sophistication and structure of pop music as well, and you can hear both where their influences came from in addition to those bands who drew inspiration from them further down the road. This reminds me of something The Church would’ve done at their peak, but even better.

The second half of the record opens with “Never”, which sounds like it was a desperate attempt to follow the tracks of “I Don’t Know Why I love You”, which is a shame, because I hear good things in this song, but they just didn’t quite fit together. You know that feeling of disappointment when you nearly complete a jigsaw puzzle, only to find that there are two pieces missing? This is the musical equivalent. “Someone’s Got To Love You” is another mild-mannered plea for attention, and, like its predecessor, falls slightly short of its mark. These tracks are largely forgettable, although they do carry through alright as background music when you’re more occupied with a task.

“In A Room” and “Blind” pick up the pace and, rhythmically at least, approach from the same traditional direction, although with less folk melody, and more contemporary progressions. These two songs are great for relaxing in the sun with a book, which I will hopefully be able to do before long. The album closes with “32nd Floor”, which feels like bluesy pop music because it is, and “Se Dest”, which saunters its way out the door with a sassy swagger reminiscent of early Led Zeppelin, had they been less heavy rock and more pop-directed. It carries a lounge-bar blues slow swing, with the jangly guitars and light, airy tones that all the previous material covers, with that warm round feel, and there in the middle, layered down in the mix, but just high enough to pick out, reside some mandolin strings! And just when you think it’s going to kick in again, it tones down even further, without losing your interest. That is a great way to wind down an evening of music.

OVERALL RATING: The album is more interesting and textured than most that we have covered over the past months, and the songwriting is quality work, for the most part. I wouldn’t want to party with these guys, but I’d certainly have tea and sandwiches with them. Possibly even read a book to them. On a scale of one to ten, ten being highest, this would be a solid 8.25 for Guy and the Chadwick’s, otherwise known as House of Love.