Last week’s posting featured the final single to be released by The Auteurs, which was June 1999.
April 2000 saw Black Box Recorder hit the charts with The Facts of Life single. The album went Top 40 in May 2000 but the follow-up single, The Art of Driving, ground to a halt at #53 in July 2000.
It was around this time that the budding secret romance between John Moore and Sarah Nixey became known to Luke Haines and he got mightily pissed-off….perhaps a bit hypocritically given that he and Alice Readman, the bassist in The Auteurs, had been an item throughout the period that the first three albums had been recorded.
He decided he needed to go off and do his own thing and there would be two releases in 2001, albeit one of them featured music that had been recorded more than a year earlier for a soundtrack to an as yet unreleased album and on which chaval will ruminate in due course.
The other album from 2001 proved to be the first time that David Boyd, supremo at Hut Records, had doubts about Luke Haines, with the tale of the album playback told in its full toe-curling detail within the pages of Post Everything.
The Oliver Twist Manifesto was, an still is, nothing like anything else Haines has ever recorded. He was obsessed at the time with concept art and rap music, and in particular falling for the charms of Dr Dre/Eminem. He decided to make a high-art-hip-hop pastiche concept album on which he opens with the line ‘This is not entertainment, don’t expect me to entertain you’.
The album has a pop at many things, and the best thing I can do to sum it up is provide the NME’s review from the time….one which gave album fours stars out of five:-
The erstwhile Auteur loves saying the unsayable, and the bizarre Dickensian Slim Shady character that glowers through the music on ‘The Oliver Twist Manifesto’ – his first ‘proper’ solo LP – is his most hateful invention yet. This is Haines as cultural dilettante – a murderous misanthrope who brings fear and doom to all.
While he wastes valuable bile on worthless art bores (‘Death Of Sarah Lucas’), when he finds something to get genuinely upset about, Haines is a genuinely stunning writer. His unusually affecting treatise on mortality ‘What Happens When We Die’ is exceptional – the primitive synth-march of ‘England Vs America’ is possibly even better.
However, if you want evidence of what bitterness can do to a person, it may be worth tracing the manner that Haines’ voice has degenerated to a hoarse whisper as his albums have become more spiteful. He hisses like a pantomime villain throughout this bizarre, uneven assault on popular culture: [I]”You’ve gotta believe me when I say I never wanted to be liked”,[/I] he coughs on the title track. If that was his aim, then with the most unlikeable album of his entire career, he’s going the right way about it.
Here’s the opening and closing tracks of an album that clocks in at just 37 minutes. It’s still a fascinating if rather odd listen…..one that has come to make more sense in later years but was so out of leftfield in 2001 that it jarred somewhat.