Black Celebration is an album that speaks of the darker side of love, with an emphasis on lust and taking risks, doing things you really shouldn't be doing. The very notion of having a "black celebration" itself sets up the album's themes perfectly - let's celebrate the end of another black day, but celebrate it together ("Your optimistic eyes/Seem like paradise/To someone like me"). Fly On The Windscreen takes the view that we're all going to die so we may as well just get on with it, A Question Of Lust is more of a sex song than a love song, Sometimes an apology for a misdeed, It Doesn't Matter Two a post coital moment of reflection and so on and so on. Martin's songwriting at the time is borne of the youthful hedonism he embarked upon from the time he moved to Berlin in a post first success flush and Black Celebration seems to be a mix of regret and lust in the main.
Only two songs stand apart from that. New Dress takes on celebrity obsession and mixes it with politics, ending the album on a curious note in a way when you consider that it is the only song on the album not looking at the world from the bedroom, or at least the corridor on the way to the bedroom. The other is Here Is The House. Like all the other songs bar New Dress, it is about love, but unlike the rest, it is overtly hopeful and by far the tenderest song on the album. Of all the Black Celebration tracks, it is one that many, if not most Depeche Mode fans hold dear.
|The Here Is The House logo - courtesy of depechemode.com|
What is it about Here Is The House that is so encapsulating though? I remember when I first heard Black Celebration, my two friends who played it to me insisted that this was the standout track on the album. The big brother of one of them agreed and, because he was older and seemed to understand music, his word was law. They were all right though - it is a special song. It acts as a balm at first, soothing you after the majestic power of Stripped. There's no intro to it either which is curious. It launches straight into the song's chorus with Dave and Martin almost duetting, Martin's melody line merging perfectly with Dave's lead until Martin sings the last line ("And as it happens/It happens here/In this house). Musically we're on a different tack too. The main melody line sounds almost like a string section, albeit a heavily treated one, creating a soothing, welcoming feel that is at odds with Stripped's crunch.
The lyrics are interesting too, as they talk of "tender moments/under this roof," implying a closeness and even a genuine sense of being in love, announcing itself far more overtly than at any other point in the album. The first verse is gorgeous and, for some reason, always puts me in mind of Christmas. There's a safety or a comfort to it, unlike, say Fly On The Windscreen - Final, to pick an obvious juxtaposition.
"And I feel your warmth/And it feels like home/And there's someone/Calling on the telephone
Let's stay home/It's cold outside/And I have so much/To confide to you
With or without words/I'll confide everything"
See? This is all about being at one with someone else, shutting the world away, being together and, most importantly when you consider the likes of say World Full Of Nothing or It Doesn't Matter Two, not regretting it. Don't get me wrong by the way - both those songs are masterpieces. I just find it interesting that their content differs markedly from Here Is The House.
We them move onto the chorus again, with Alan adding the odd layer of noise to the mix before the main riff kicks in, as poppy as anything on the album. Black Celebration is an album fuelled by a dark, twisted take on pop, but this song as almost a straightforward pop song. One interesting point to note here is the lyrics to the chorus which differ from Martin's own demo. Instead of singing "Body and soul come together/As we come closer together" he sings "Colours and shapes merge together/As we come closer together." I wonder why he changed it? The lyrics from the album version certainly have more of a Black Celebration feel to them. The demo is notable too for the use of guitar which was an unusual sound in those Depeche Mode days. Have a listen:
Returning to the album version, the song builds and builds from this point in a way that would become more familiar in Depeche's next few albums, with additional clever layers of music adding to the song's atmosphere. Lyrically too, the second verse focuses on togetherness, as opposed to lust or anything black:
"So we stay at home/And I'm by your side/And you know what's going on inside
Inside my heart/Inside this house/And I just want to let it out for you
And I feel your warmth/And it feels like home."
It shows Martin in a rare moment of contentment, at least in his Black Celebration phase. His lyrics these days are all about souls and love, but Here Is The House was pretty unique at the time in tackling that subject matter.
What has thus far been a wonder of a song is then topped off as Martin's "Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh" part arrives, leading to the chorus and a Martin sung "Here is the house" counter-melody, all of which repeat three times, suddenly disappearing, leaving Martin's "oh oh's" singing us to the song's conclusion. The ticking clock that has ran throughout the track closes it off beautifully. You feel happy as the song ends. You're buoyed by the sense of love and happiness. It's overtly positive, as opposed to the darker positivity that you find in the likes of the following World Full Of Nothing. It's simply a gorgeous, glorious track.
But, you are no doubt wondering, how can a song on an album as revered as Black Celebration be a lost classic? Well, Here Is The House is a song that Depeche Mode have never fully done justice. Unlike many of the more celebrated tracks on the record, Here Is The House is rarely, if at all, played live for example. As we've read previously, it was on the setlist for the Black Celebration tour, but was only played in Oxford and Brighton, and then disappeared from the set not to be heard again in the subsequent 74 shows. This recording from Brighton is decent enough and shows that the song seems to work ok. Some of the vocals are a bit off certainly, but it was only night two. Maybe Dave and Martin felt they couldn't do it justice hence why it was dropped?
A few of the keyboard lines are ropey too now that I listen back to it!
Martin brought it back on World Violation as part of his acoustic set. Here it is from Frankfurt on 14 October 1990:
The acoustic version is a lovely take on it, exposing the song's emotions perfectly. The full band version on the album is superior though as it adds the necessary atmosphere. It only got 19 plays on the tour though, meaning that, all in, Depeche Mode have only played Here Is The House live 21 times. Hole To Feed and Miles Away/The Truth Is have had more outings that than to give you some context.
It's a pity that a song so beautiful that offers both respite from the dark reality of Black Celebration and a hopefulness not really present elsewhere on the album, has been overlooked by the band. I love it, and I know lots of you do too.
Here Is The House a lost classic? I'll drink to that.
I couldn't let this go by without a comment: if someone told me this was the most beautiful DM song, I wouldn't argue with them. It's certainly in my top five. Everything about it is just perfect. As someone else who's been listening to DM for 30+ years, you know what it's like to have a song of theirs inform your worldview and this one has meant so much to me throughout the years. It's lack of live play hasn't ever really bothered me – makes it seem more special, in fact – though I think the 1990 acoustic version was probably the most appropriate way to play it.ReplyDelete
Also, by the way, I dunno if you've heard this but the lead line in the song actually is a guitar, played with a coin if I remember some random old interview correctly.
(ugh, I have a typo on "its")Delete
Hello! Yes it is a fantastic warm song, completely agree! The lead melody though is a Mandolin. I believe Alan said that they sampled up strokes and down strokes and and the notes alternate between the two to give it that distinctive feel. I think you're referring to "Hank" the name they gave to the guitar sample in "People Are People" they used a coin to pluck the guitar string for that I believe ;-)Delete
Thanks so much for this wonderful post, exactly my thoughts of the song being "a lost classic". I love singing Martin's harmonies while listening to it over my headphones - must sound horrible, but one simply has to join in, it's brings such a feeling of sheer happiness and comfort. The Sweetest Perfection, so to say.ReplyDelete
I just heard it and it mesmerised me! I had never heard it before. It's haunting and glorious and it builds up so wonderfully. I'm so pleased that I read this article about it and had the chance to appreciate one of Depeche Mode's hidden gems.ReplyDelete
This is THE song that I most associate with BC. Someone mentions BC and I immediately have to ask their favourite track, holding my breath until they say “Here Is The House”. Yes, everything else is fabulous, but this is THE song of the album and it’s an absolute travesty that it was never given the full live treatment. I remember my ten year old heart being gutted that they didn’t play it live at Expo 86. It was the song I was waiting for, and obviously Stripped and Question of Lust but HITH was the track I needed to hear live.ReplyDelete
The acoustic version was an acoustic version that was inferior to the album version. Was it nice to hear? Yeah, but it really needed the album treatment to appreciate its brilliance and I can only imagine how amazing it would have been if they were able to sort the issues.
This track should have been a single or a B side to Stripped, seeing as they meld so beautifully together on the album. It’s placement in the track listing was perfection. We roll out with Question of Time, get our knickers melted with Stripped and then get a black cherry bubble bath for two. I don’t think I’ve seen a better trio of songs on any album that worked so effortlessly together. I can’t imagine it being placed anywhere else. The only trio that comes close is MFTM with NLMDA, TYS and SL. Black Celebration though, in my opinion had the best track arrangement of any of their albums.
This truly is a lost classic, and it’s one of their tracks that I can put on repeat and listen to it and nothing else for three months straight. It’s that level of perfection. BC has aged like fine wine, getting better with every listen and this sounds as fresh today as it did the first time I heard the clock ticking into that eargasmic opening. It’s the perfect song. Some might roll their eyes and point out less overtly poppy tracks; in the heart of the synthpop purist, this track dictates its beating.
Suffer Well and Hole To Feed are overplayed and should have never been played again after they recorded them. That the fans will never get the soaring feels of hearing this live is truly criminal. Like the sexiness of Dangerous and that part in Happiest Girl, there are some songs that scream out to be played live, so you can fully immerse yourself in it, mind, body and soul.
Here Is The House is truly a feast for all the senses and in my DM concert dreams, I sometimes hear it played in its album version glory.
I enjoyed your comments on HITH, you write beautifully about it and express your love of this perfect song so beautifully. Thank you!ReplyDelete