Originally a German-only release of a few pre-debut singles and b-sides, the eponymous "German Album" (as it became known to distinguish it from House of Love's first two albums, both of which were also eponymous), has been expanded here to sweep up all the other non-LP singles and b-sides from the period of '86-'88. A lot of people say this is every bit as essential (if not more) than House of Love's classic debut. I'd agree that it just about is.
This comp gives a thorough view of the House of Love's non-LP oeuvre through their first three years. Although it's a collection of singles and b-sides, everything holds together pretty seamlessly and cohesively. Like their debut, these songs are fairly eclectic, running the gamut from delicate, haunting, shimmering, melodic guitar-pop ("Nothing to Me," "Plastic") to catchy but moody mid-tempo near hits ("Destroy the Heart," original version of "Shine On"), to muscular rockers ("Real Animal," "The Hedonist"). Yet everything bears the unmistakable stamp of singer/songwriter/guitarist Guy Chadwick's riveting and perfectionist song-craft and commanding voice, effectively tying it all together. The band pushes the music well beyond the scope of the era's average c86 tripe with a muscular rhythm section and lead guitarist Terry Bickers' mesmerizing, colorfully melodic style of playing.
That said, I still think the debut is the House of Love's most perfect statement, and therefore the place for neophytes to start. However, the House of Love rose up on a wave of gushing critical praise and an increasingly rabid fan-base on the strength of the songs presented here, and this collection makes it abundantly clear why this happened. By mid-87, the Smiths were pretty much dead with the Bunnymen soon to follow, leaving a vacuum in the UK pop world that hordes of sensitive, bespectacled, cardigan-sporting university students and desperate music critics madly sought to fill. House of Love seemed to fit the bill and was promptly deemed the "next big thing." They held that crown deservedly for a time, but sadly, a slew of difficulties prevented them from sustaining that. But the songs here reflect an exciting time in the band's meteoric rise, and this comp should be considered mandatory for anyone wanting to hear what all the fuss was about.