Weekly new release round-up: House of Love, Ben Harper, Beach Fossils

March 21, 2013
House of Love: House of Love (3-disc reissue) — House of Love fall into an odd little niche of their own devising; not quite shoegaze, not quite post-punk. Yet they were legitimately a seminal band in both genres. In hindsight, they tend to sound a little derivative of more household names. Their Creation Records stint (covered in the previous compilation 1986-88: The Creation Recordings) really does sound pretty much like combining Echo and The Bunnymen with My Bloody Valentine‘s Isn’t Anything. Which makes sense since those two references bookend this period, but it’s unfortunate that it’s hard to look past the similarities since HoL were clearly just doing their own thing and were actually quite unique and original.
This deluxe edition of HoL’s first self-titled album effectively replaces the aforementioned single disc compilationwhich combined all the songs from their debut and “The German Album”, as does this set plus extra demos and live cuts (including a surprisingly incendiary “I Want To Be Your Dog“). Dabblers should go for the Creation comp, but if you want the original artwork, the essay in the booklet and the unusually listenable and interesting demo versions (an actual value-add to a “deluxe” edition for once), this is a nice little package.
Under-appreciated classics out of 5 Would be Lovelesses
Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite: Get On! — If ten years ago (or even just one year ago) you’d told me I’d have a frickin’ Ben Harper album on repeat, I’d have laughed until I ruptured something and then thanked you for the sweet, sweet pain while I bled out internally. Well, I wasn’t counting on Harper turning into an authentic deep-fried, dirty bluesman. Get On! is like how you wish those electric Muddy Waters records would sound or what it’d be like if R.L. Burnside had been more focused on music than whiskey or even Jon Spencer if he were actually black. Damn.
4.75 Mississippis out of 5 Chicagos
Beach Fossils: Clash The Truth — A healthy dose of well constructed indie-pop glazed with dream-pop influences. Previous releases by Beach Fossils didn’t grab me because they were too lo-fi, a frequent problem I have with this particular sub-genre. Not that this is particularly hi-fi (ELO it is not) but it isn’t hampered by that grating tinniness which obscures so many otherwise great indie-pop records these days (and those days back in the ’90s for that matter). Still, these aren’t really great tunes; just pretty good tunes—unchallenging head-bobbers for listening to while reading something on an iPad while you commute on the subway to your unpaid intern job at some hip media outlet.
3.5 lo-fi surf-pops out of 5 hi-fi dream-pops.
Yo La Tengo: Fade — Probably their most aptly titled album since 2000’s And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, the latest by Yo La Tengo pretty much just fades into the background. One of their most stylistically cohesive albums, each track blends into the next leaving no other impression than, “Oh, that was rather nice, wasn’t it?” The most memorable moments are those that hint at maybe half a refrain from one of their earlier songs. That’s when you start to take notice but then it’s like Obi Wan waves his hand and says, “These are not the tunes you’re looking for.” Entirely inoffensive.
3 ambiguous clouds out of 5 dappled leaves

Bleeding Rainbow: Yeah Right — Fans of Yo La Tengo‘s early ’90s heyday (or similar-minded ’90s indie) might actually be pleased to acquire this offering from Bleeding Rainbow. The opening track, “Go Ahead” is a pretty spot-on homage to the Tengos. Other ’90s influences will pop up for you (Velocity GirlBreedersThrowing MusesJale, Eric’s Trip) at various points depending on who you were listening to.  It has that blend of not quite garage rock, not quite shoegaze, not quite punk, not quite noise-pop that was the best of the original crop’s secret weapon.

Better than some recent records dabbling in the genre’s  revival, there’s a greater variety of textures and tempos which keeps things interesting. It’s not just a wash of dreamy fuzz and if they are consciously aping their favourite songs, at least they’ve picked eleven bands to ape and not just the usual one or two. I always throw the word “authenticity” around when reviewing discs like this and Yeah Right does a better job than most of sounding like an actual lost album from 1993. To me that’s a good thing.

4 Divine Hammers out of 5 Tom Courtneys
More reviews at this page.

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