on 26 April 2001
From the shimmering sounds of the 'third time we opened the capsule' to the vitriolic thrust of 'mainly mornings' precious few albums can provide the sustained listening pleasure of Love is Hell (it's been ten years since I first picked this up on vinyl and is usually kept in close proximity to the record player).
The bands guitarist Julian Swales manages to extract an incredible array of sounds from his equipment, matching perfectly the range of feeling displayed by lead singer and bass player Patrick Fitzgerald. As ever Dan Goodwin drums his heart out, holding the strucutre of the songs together.
Emerging in the late 80s to much critical acclaim, yet limited sales. The subsequent arrival of Slowdive and Chapterhouse in the early 90s brought about unfair and misguided comparisons.... KOD never deserved to be sullied with the shoegazer tag. Their music had so much more spirit, variety and genuine emotion - all very much on display in this their first album.
Live gigs by the band were well attended precious events (they had an adoring and loyal, albeit insufficient fanbase - well in the UK anyway, the US was a different matter). Gigs at the Boardwalk and Roadhouse in Manchester stick prominently in my mind.
The day KOD packed it in (you can only swim against the tide of disinterest for so long) was one of the greatest losses to fans of well crafted, passionate, thoughtfull music.
Kitchens of Distinction could , arguably , be lumped in with the plethora of Shoegaze bans that appeared at the end of 1980,s and into the early 1990,s. Except the Kitchens were usually far too engrossed with staring into some lovers eyes to be bothered with gawping at their own , or anyone else's footwear. Hence of course the title of their 1989 debut album .
And what an album this is. Coming out in the same year as The Stone Roses transcendental debut and the greatest album of all time The Blue Niles truly wondrous "Hats" Love Is Hell is by no means out of place amongst such exalted company. The band were a trio and like many trio's (The Jam ,Husker Du Big Black) made a potent noise. Patrick Fitzgerald plays yawning sinuous bass lines and sings with precise yet ardent tones .The lyrics are a fervent mixture of graceful colloquies and stinging barbs about love mainly. Fitzgerald's homosexuality means the lyrics aren't the traditional boy meets girl fare but they still resonate with empathy , tenderness and the odd raw nerve and why shouldn't they . However it's the extraordinary soundscapes evinced by guitarist Julian Swales guitar that truly transport the music somewhere we haven't heard before. Whether sprawling with liquid grace, swirling like multi-faceted clouds of gaudy gas , or humming like the vestigial carapace of some vibrant earthbound insect it's an instrument of effervescent wonder. Add in the pulsating percussion of Dan Goodwin and you have true muscle and tendons under the intricate gorgeous epidermis.
All of that would be terrific but ultimately consequential if the songs were poor .Happily there are nine songs on this album that would make a mountain troll dizzy with delight. "In A Cave" has suitably cavernous bass, and almost indolent eddying guitars while the guitars are even more ephemeral on "Time To Groan " until the chorus where they suddenly gush out of the speakers like multi-hued ectoplasm . "Shiver" is a lovers pleas set to thumping percussion, strident infinite bass and scouring guitars that match Patrick's vocal intensity for the chorus.
The albums centrepiece is "Prize" where "These pub walls are dissolving " which is apt as that is exactly what Julian's guitar seems to do as the chorus approaches and the fade out is simply wonderful . The single "The 3rd Time We Opened The Capsule" is a frivolous rush of euphoric pop where words fail him and this this time with a tremendous fade in which contrast nicely with the rather deliberate plodding "Her Last Day In Bed" . "Courage Mother" is a more traditional sounding song with guitar that almost jangles while "Mainly Mornings" is a burbling giddy rush of a song with a bass line as fat as a sated toad where "there's a television , a radio , a telephone , it all helps" "Hammer" as befits it's title is a pounding blockbuster, with a clanging guitar refrain.
While you could argue that the very finest KOD songs are not on Love Is Hell-"Drive That Fast" , Quick As Rainbows" , Fell My Genie", Margaret's Injection "- every song on the album is terrific and the sound of the band is truly unique -those eddying guitars somehow recalling deep-rooted psychedelic music while still sounding resolutely contemporary .They still sound fresh and vital today and a hell of a lot more exciting than any modern guitar band I can think of . For them love is hell , but their pain is definitely our pleasure.
on 22 June 2007
I was 16 when this record came out and I have loved it from day 1. It was a revelation at that age to realise that you could be gay and like indie music. Let's face it: for all his campness, Morrissey never helped on that front. For that reason alone it would be important... It helped me through the closet years.
Musically, it's sonic, shimmering guitars with lyrics full of intense, ecstatic emotion. Live, it was stunningly powerful; sadly, perhaps, this doesn't really come through on this album.
Unfortunately, KOD never got the recognition that they deserved. I still struggle to understand why. Maybe it was the obvious homosexuality that scared people off. Buy it and find out.
on 2 August 2005
...if there ever was such a term. Bought this when released in the late 80's, loved it, went on to buy all their stuff. But this is still my fave, from In a Cave to Hammer, the music builds from scarred lyrics and crashing guitars through to pounding aural delight of the last 2 tracks.
My favourite track is Courage Mother, which stands aside from the rest of the album, as if recorded or written in a different place to the rest of the music, but I just love that bassline.