One of the leading British indie rock bands of the 1980s and early 1990s, the House of Love have had such a tremulous history that recounting it would take several pages (just take a peek at their Wikipedia page). However, on She Paints Words in Red, the band’s second album since they returned from a ten-year hiatus in 2003, the band appears to have mellowed with age. That isn’t a bad thing.
The group’s newest effort is a melodic and soothing slice of indie rock. The songs on this album, their first for Cherry Red Records, are reflective and almost wistful. Not that there is a feeling of melancholia or sorrow on the record, it feels like this band has embraced who they are.
The songs sound gently reminiscent, like recounting a fond memory. When singer Guy Chadwick sings that “the only trouble here is in your mind” on “Trouble in Mind”, it feels like he has accepted the mantra. There is a resigned, contented air to his vocals throughout the album. It gives his voice a maturity that makes the album feel richer.
The guitars quietly accompany Chadwick’s ethereal crooning beautifully, with gentle melodies and just enough verve here and there to remind you they are still there. The entire ensemble feels very tightly put together, with nary a wasted drum fill or extra guitar part. Even though it is appreciably well put together, the album delivers a very carefree, unassuming vibe throughout.
The only downside to this lackadaisical feeling is that there isn’t really any song or group of songs that stands out from the pack. This is a bunch of slightly forlorn soft rock, nothing more and nothing less. It’s an album that skates along pretty easily, never making stop to take notice.
When Chadwick laments he feels “just like Hemingway”, it’s over a jangly guitar and uptempo drums, delivered with airy nonchalance. The complaint comes across as just a little forced, and likewise you’ll be hard pressed to find any kind of emotional connection with this batch of songs. They will probably flit out of your head just as fast as they enter.
Not that every song needs to be an ear-worm, or that you should cry (or laugh) on any record. But She Paints Words in Red is devoid of any kind of feelings. It can be warm, sometimes, but that’s about all you’ll get.
Overall, it’s clear from She Paints Words in Red that the House of Love are a band that know their way around a well-written song. This is a pretty album that doesn’t try to be much else. Leave any expectations behind, and you’ll like it just fine.