Ruth Mitchell - March 2004
It seems like a lifetime ago that the Hothouse Flowers anthem "Don't Go" emanated from radios everywhere. A bunch of street-performers from Dublin set out to impress with their hybrid of rock'n'roll, Irish folk and gospel influences back in 1988, and it was something of a breath of fresh air.
It's been seven years since these guys last presented us with new material, so it's likely that by now longer-in-the-tooth fans have high expectations of how it will sound. Luckily, Into Your Heart is unlikely to disappoint. It sees Ireland's finest folk-rock export return in fighting form.
The recent single "Your Love Goes On" is a magnificently buoyant start. Full of enticing horns and uplifting harmonies by the Dublin Gospel Choir, it re-establishes the strong and endearing vocal presence that is Liam Ó Maonlaí. "Tell Me" is another punchy little number, with stabbing Hammond organ, a thumping drumbeat and some swirling, looped electronics. Good stuff.
The pace drops for the likes of "Peace Tonight" and "Santa Monica", and the latters jazz-tinged chorus and swampy blues harmonica combine to great effect. Amongst the ballads, it's "Feel Like Living" that shines through. It's a movingly simple ode with only pretty piano and ghostly, soaring strings for backing. Soul-searching and beautiful.
The gutsy force that drives the beginning of this collection re-emerges before the end and "Out Of Nowhere", dedicated to Liam's wife Aoife, is immediate and frisky despite it's sentimentality. Meanwhile, "Sí Do Mhamó Í" is the kind of finale any traditional Irish musician would be proud of. Sung in Gaelic and recorded live in Minneapolis, it's got tin whistles galore and some breathtaking bodhran playing - a glorious finish. Welcome back Hothouse Flowers.
David Rafaello - March 2004
This album displays all of the faults of post-modernism in recorded music (save those of the totally un-musical, repetitive noise genre). If somebody gives it to you, pass it on to your gran. There’s a track called Baby I Got You which quotes from nearly all easy listening rock and soul albums for the past 30 years.
On the plus side, this is seriously easy listening (Radio Two take note). But, sadly, there is nothing new here; there is no invention; there is no intention. It is all recycled, all predictable: Liam Ó Maonlaí's soaring - not unpleasant - voice over a keyboard or percussion burden; the faux gospel choir backing (if that's really the Dublin Gospel Choir they need to try harder); the Dylan-reference harmonica; the gargling noise intended to convey precisely what this group lacks - real engagement; the fade at the end of most tracks.
There’s a track called Santa Monica. I used to live in Santa Monica - no bells ringing for me. The words don’t make a lot of sense even when they make sense: "I carry a bag full of music and words / And I’m making my way through the streets..." Yeah? "The sun has gone down..." Oh, give me a break!
I was quite taken by Gerry Rafferty when his first album came out in the ‘70s. Hothouse Flowers is an Irish group that, more than 50% of the time, tries to sound like Gerry Rafferty. It’s nice - but it’s a bit historical. It’s not as good as Gerry Rafferty. At times it descends to... The Carpenters. I’ve heard A Better Man done better somewhere else.
The track Alright offends me. English is not only the language of the whole world, but it is also the language that allows you to be more precise (and therefore communicative) than any other in the world. If you misuse it, you are not only confusing others but you are damaging the greatest heritage that human souls share - language. "All" and "right" are two words, not one - even in Ireland.
Andrew Lynch - 4 February 2004
Some flowers take forever to burst into bloom. Others blossom straight away, but then quickly wither and die. And then of course there's the Hothouse Flowers, the hardy perennials of the Irish music scene who steadfastly refuse to follow any of nature's rules. The bohemian Dubliners never quite lived up to the 'next U2' tag they acquired in the late 80s, but here in 2004 they're ready to give it another shot, with a stripped-down line-up and a confident-sounding new album. Their raggle-taggle image now just a bad memory left, Into Your Heart is probably the most soulful record they've made to date, packed with gospel-tinged arrangements and some strikingly intimate vocal performances from Liam O'Maonlai. As usual, however, it's their banal lyrics that let them down - for some reason the Flowers have just never been able to find the right words to do justice to their musical prowess. Despite hard work all round, this is ultimately for committed fans only.
1 out of 5 stars
Oliver Goodyear - March 2004
Unless you’re really old or boring, you probably hadn’t even noticed they were gone, but Hothouse Flowers are back with their first album in seven years. I for one was living comfortably in the firm believe that I might never have to hear them again, and I was happy with that situation. 'Into Your Heart' does nothing to alter this opinion: put simply, it's an awful record.
You might expect that, after seven years in the making, some semblance of progress would be observable, but unless you view the first track sounding a bit like David Gray as the heralding of a bold new future, I’m afraid it’s dreary business as usual. Liam O'Maonlai’s mannered voice is particularly excruciating: pray that you never have to suffer the opening lines of 'Out of Nowhere' which have left me emotionally scarred.
This album smacks of a money making exercise for a band who long since gave up caring whether they were any good so long as the cash kept rolling in. The most depressing thing is that A&R men continue to open their chequebooks up to these men when great unsigned bands are spilling out of every two-bit town across the UK and Ireland currently.
Jack Foley - March 2004
INTO Your Heart marks the first studio album from the Hothouse Flowers in seven years but, sadly, the wait does not appear to have been worth it.
Symptomatic of easy listening/soul at its blandest, this is the type of album which begins brightly (in the form of first single, Your Love Goes On), but then becomes a mundane series of heartfelt songs, which sound far too earnest and joyfree for their own good.
Boasting the type of collection that would easily make the playlist of Radio 2 (for mothers only), the album is a long, drawn out affair, which seriously begins to flag about midway through.
Tracks such as Santa Monica, which comes with descriptions such as. 'Fiachna was riding on Santa Monica Big Blue Bus from the beach back to central Los Angeles on a pensive, sad Summer's day, and put pen to paper and out came this little snapshot', aptly sum up the feel of the album.
Very serious, mostly melancholy, and insanely dull. You don't tend to think of places such as Santa Monica as being sad, but Liam Ó Maonlaí and co make it so.
The lyrics don't help, with lines such as 'worn out faces from God's special places, working their lives to the bone', (during Santa Monica), or 'Satisfaction, thinking of you, it's my reaction, thinking of you, up on an airplane, I take to the sky, see you later, this isn't goodbye', from the hopelessly flat Hallelujah.
On the plus side, Ó Maonlaí's soaring vocals make the album easy to listen to (they don't grate in any way), while the varied use of instruments, from hammond organs, stings and pianos, to tin whistles and flugelhorns, occasionally add an extra dimension.
But there is an air of artistic pretentiousness which also permeates, making it all the more difficult to like.
Peace Tonight, for instance, is a distinctly average track, which lays claim to the band's boast that 'Fiachna was sitting in his bedroom, fighting writer's block... he shook it off and wrote this in ten minutes... man oh man God is good... a few weeks later Liam sang it in a voice never heard before'.
The only time the album really finds its stride is during tracks such as the aforementioned single, Your Love Goes On, which features the Dublin Gospel Choir to lend it a bit of soul, and during the Van Morrison inspired Magic Bracelets.
Yet it is ironic that the best track on the album comes last - a live version of So Do Mhamo I, during which the band really lets go of its earnest values and has a really good old Irish craic.
Sadly, by this time, you will probably have abandoned it.
8 out of 10
Greg Surmacz - 9 March 2004
Starting out as 'the best unsigned band in Europe' according to Rolling Stone, Ireland's once next-big-things have chosen to spend the last few years pursuing individual projects, and recently got together to record this, their first full-length effort in five years.
It's a likeable blend of soul, acoustic and rock influences- with Ryan Adams at the height of his popularity there could be room for a comeback from HF.
This album is soulful, raw and expressive, and has quite a reflective tone citing a few personal experiences from the band. All in all this isn't exactly going to the change the world, but it's clearly had a lot of care and attention put into it, and is a really nice record. Thumbs up.
by ????? - March 2004
'Into Your Heart'is the band's fifth studio album, and it'a bit of a corker. It's a long awaited return for the band, many members of which have been on solo projects.
It's solid soul/pop/rock with catchy tunes from begining to end. Lead singer Liam O'Maonlai is as strong and distinctive as ever, adding a warm glow to each track.
The first single from the album is 'Your Love Goes On' and apart from being anthemic and lush it features the Dublin Gospel Choir.
Personal favourites include: "End Of The Road" which is heartfelt, "Better Man" with good lyrics and "Santa Monica" which sounds great but reminded me of the Thrills - haven't they got a single with a similar title?
Thoroughly recommend it. It's good solid music that with a timeless quality.
9 out of 10
by Nick James and Tone E - March 2004
This is the first studio release the band has put out for seven years. Should be an interesting one...
N: Nice to hear this band back again, and I'll confess to this having been the soundtrack to my Valentines evening this year. I think it's their debut album I have on LP in a box somewhere (much to my guilt), but this is not the rip roaring "Don't Go', and its release, if anything, would have been better placed to coincide with the Valentines market. get the picture?
T: Yeah I can see that, and it's as soulful an album as you'd expect from the former chart heroes. Tracks evoke memories of the Rolling Stones at one of their most tender moments, Otis Redding and several other classic artistes throughout. I think respect for this band has probably grown since we last heard from them, and they have certainly delivered the goods here.
by Gillian Nash - March 2004
The world has changed a lot since Hothouse Flowers first emerged in 1985. Back then, their slightly folk, slightly Celtic (they hail from Dublin) songs of love, life and redemption fitted seamlessly alongside the budding U2 and the burgeoning Christians. The world has changed, but Hothouse Flowers haven’t. Collaborations with Crowded House’s Tim Finn and musical cousins The Waterboys should have broadened their outlook, but instead seems to have had the opposite effect, leaving this, their first group effort in seven years, feeling a little too relaxed. It’s accomplished, certainly, and impossible to pin down exactly what’s missing; their souls are certainly intact, there’s just no fire here.