Love and Rockets. A deep atmospheric group rising from the ashes of Bauhaus to craft a string of dark, melodic, and occasionally ecstatic albums including their upcoming release, Lift. They are one of my personal favorites, but they have been less connected to the music scene for a while, so I’m going to introduce you to their work.
The band is made up of Daniel Ash, who plays guitar, keyboards, and saxophone, David J, who plays bass, Spanish guitar, and keyboards, and Kevin Haskins, who plays drums and programs.
Their first album The Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven is much less an album than a collection of songs. However, the songs are, for the most part, very good, including the sexy title track, the beautiful (if vaguely blasphemous) “If There’s a Heaven Above” and the gorgeous album closer, “Suadade.”
Express, their second album is much more structured. It showcases many of the bands strengths, from the eerie harmonic singing, to Daniel Ash’s fuzz box guitar. It also contained what many remember as the first Love and Rockets Single-a brilliant reworking of “Ball of Confusion.” The song is transformed into an electric classic of rage and apathy. The album also contains the blistering “Yin and Yang and the Flower Pot Man” and the darkly gorgeous “Love Me.”
Love and Rocket’s third album Earth Sun Moon takes a different tack. After the first two songs-the punkish “Mirror People,” and the brilliantly dark “Light”-the album is given over to an almost 60ish ethos. Songs like “Welcome Tomorrow” and “Waiting For The Flood” use a lot of acoustic guitars, and are lighter in tone than anything else the band has done. And the album gave us one of their most riveting singles with “No New Tale to Tale.”
Their forth album, named simply Love and Rockets, is a return to the darkness, in more ways than one. The band apparently had a really difficult time recording it, and following it’s release and tour took several years off. It is an inconsistent album, but it does contain some excellent works. Of course, it contains what is probably their biggest single, the very sensual “So Alive.” The other great works are darker, such as the horrifying tale of ****(Jungle Law) and a savage reworking of an the old ballad “Bound for Hell.”
In the intervening years, both David J and Daniel Ash pursued solo careers, with some success. Daniel Ash’s Coming Down, for example, is a brilliant album, and sounds very much like a Love and Rockets album. From the spooky reworking of “Me and My Shadow” to the Latin flavored “Walk This Way” to the vicious dance track “This Love”-the album covers a lot of ground. Unfortunately, the album has some real clunkers as well, which highlights a problem of later Love and Rockets work. There are moments of brilliance, but there are also moments of weakness as well. David J’s solo efforts do not like Love and Rockets. His album Songs from Another Season is a folk flavored album, with lots of acoustic guitars. His “I’ll be Your Chauffeur” is a beautifully romantic tune and his lullaby like “Little Star” is simply elegant.
1994 saw the return of Love and Rockets as a single unit with a new sound, and some old tricks. Hot Trip to Heaven lacks the fuzz box guitar of earlier efforts, but in it’s place is a new focus on beats and keyboards. The first single “Body and Soul” is a 14 minute extravaganza. While I understand why it didn’t get much radio play, it really works best at 14 minutes. “Ugly” slinks its way through another seven minutes, but it is sooo sexy. The title track is the one clunker and, unfortunately, it is also seven minutes long.
Sweet FA, the follow up, has been described as listless, or weak. It does have some excellent tracks, including the ecstatic “Sweet Lover Hangover,” the hauntingly beautiful title track, and the darkly moving “Use Me.” But the album peters out half way through, and it contains several songs that are all but unlistenable.
Which brings us to Lift their latest effort (to be released October 13th), and the album to break the spiral downward. I am happy to report that Lift contains no clunkers. There’s been a lot of talk lately about groups incorporating electronica into their music. Madonna’s last album Ray of Light was portrayed in this light, although it really owed more to groups like Erasure and Pet Shop Boys than The Chemical Brothers and Prodigy.
Love and Rockets goes to the same well on their latest album, but their attitudes mesh a lot better with electronica. Songs like “R.I.P. 20 C.” and “Resurrection Hex” (the first single) are blistering slices of big beats and excellent licks. “Holy Fool,” “Pink Flamingos,” and “Deep Deep Down,” successfully meld the electronica touches with their own brand of Gothic rock. This is an excellent album, if not a representative one. For those interested in Love and Rockets I would suggest first picking up Earth Sun Moon, and then going from there. Lift, Express, and Hot Trip to Heaven are all excellent choices to continue your collection, and then you can decide whether you like the sound enough to pursue it further.