Love And Rockets ‘Hot Trip To Heaven’ (Beggars Banquet / American, 1994)

For some reason, at the tail end of last year, the song ‘So Alive’ got lodged in my head. Released in 1989, the upbeat dance-pop tune was Love And Rockets’ best-known track and their biggest hit. But it also led me to wondering what came next for the band who were formed from the ashes of goth post-punkers Bauhaus.

The answer is ‘Hot Trip To Heaven’, which came out in 1994, a whole five years after the self-titled fourth LP that spawned ‘So Alive’. Having taken a break following an intense period of chart success, members Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins began working on this, their fifth album, inspired by the music that the likes of The Orb, Leftfield and Orbital were making in the early 90s. 

It should have been easy – they had a hefty fanbase, as well as the backing of Rick Rubin’s US label, American – but it wasn’t. ‘Hot Trip To Heaven’ went over like tumbleweed. Too electronic for the rock kids, and too rock for the electronic kids. But 30 years after its release, it’s worth revisiting this underrated bit of peak-era UK electronica.

For starters, the 14-minute-plus opener ‘Body And Soul’ is actually pretty damn good. It’s got searing psychedelic guitars, tripped-out synths, a groovy beat that could have come straight from ‘Screamadelica’ and fuzzy vocal FX. This approach – grab all the best bits from the 90s acid house boom and stick them in a blender – basically underscores ‘Hot Trip To Heaven’. 

The second track ,‘Ugly’, is equally easy to get into, a slinking diss-track with wailing, world music-tinted backing vocals from Egyptian-Belgian singer Natacha Atlas. Likewise with the third track, the narcotic slow- burner, ‘Trip And Glide’. 

Then there’s the pulsing, smokey ‘This Heaven’, like peeling back a velvet curtain and descending into some darkened opium den. And on it goes. Before you know it, an hour has passed, the trip is over, and it’s hard to understand why the album received such a cold shoulder in the 90s.

Beggars Banquet, who originally released the album in the UK, put out an expanded vinyl reissue of ‘Hot Trip To Heaven’ last year as part of their Beggars Arkive series. It’s well worth seeking out. And if a pub trivia quiz ever asks you to name a Love And Rockets song that isn’t ‘So Alive’, at least now you’ll have an answer.

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