When the seminal gothic/punk band Bauhaus split in ‘83, lead singer Peter Murphy headed off for a solo career, while guitarist Daniel Ash, drummer Kevin Haskins, and bassist David J formed Love and Rockets.
Love and Rockets began their “post-goth” career with an album of great sonic depth and drama, Seventh Dream of a Teenage Heaven, recorded at producer John Rivers’ own Woodbine Studio in 1985.
The songs are structurally simple, with an emphasis on repeated guitar/bass/drum figures built up layer-by-layer into a drone-like series of tuneful tidal waves washing over the listener. This approach builds to near-overwhelming intensity on the epic “The Dog End of the Day,” as Ash and J’s deadpan multitracked vocals create a spooky disembodied chorus that seems to arise out of Haskins’ determined tom-tom and bass-drum pounding.
“Haunted When the Minutes Drag” builds to a similar end over an electronic beat spiced with jolting boinks and metallic hisses. “Saudade” is a beautiful acoustic guitar piece from Ash reverbed out across a quivering purple landscape, accented with echoed percussive strikes that seem to originate from miles away. Rivers’ lush keyboard washes enfold the scene in gossamer.
The title track creates more moody mystery as Ash and J trade hit-and-run vocal lines from around sonic corners over Ash’s fuzzed and extended guitar attacks and an ominous syncopated beat. Rivers’ enormous production never strays from grandeur into the grandiose – a tour de force.
The following year’s Express, though not possessed of the same overall impact as Seventh, has even better individual songs. “Kundalini Express” shows off Ash’s great hard-rock riffing ability as Ash and J trade choo choo/karma metaphors in their lowest registers. Rivers favors body blows over reverb on this one.
“All In My Mind” should have been the band’s first smash single, blessed with a great singalong tune and bouncy beat over acres of hard-strummed acoustic guitars and fuzzy electric riffing. “Ball of Confusion” is a psychedelic, hard-grooving update of the Temptations’ classic. Dopey title notwithstanding, “Yin and Yang the Flower Pot Man” is another milestone. Rivers employs some of his wave-of-sound multitracking techniques as the band ratchets up the tempo to a triple-time Bo Diddley beat, which it miraculously maintains for six minutes of knuckle-flaying strumming and ritualistic drum-thumping.
The album’s momentum is disrupted by an unnecessary “acoustic version” of “All In My Mind” (it was pretty acoustic in the first place), but closes strongly with “An American Dream.”
The band would become more popular, and finally hit in the U.S. with “So Alive” off the Love and Rockets album in ’89, but they were never better than these first two classics, which are well-represented on the recent Sorted! The Best of Love and Rockets on Beggars Banquet.