AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #178 : THE AUTEURS

A GUEST POSTING by ROL HIRST
from MY TOP TEN blog

When JC mentioned recently that he’d worked through his backlog of ICAs and put out a tentative call for new offerings, I consulted the list I have pinned to my notice board and wondered which one (of many) ICA-bereft artists I might have a go at. The name Luke Haines leapt out at me, and I had to double-check that JC hadn’t yet written an ICA for the man he once called “the curmudgeonly king of anti-Britpop” himself.

Right, I’m having that, I thought, when I realised he hadn’t. And then I realised what an impossible task I’d set myself. Covering the whole of Luke Haines’ prolific recording career in one ICA was the equivalent of attempting a Weller ICA which combined The Jam, The Style Council and his solo stuff. It was just never going to happen. The only way to do it was to divide the ICA into three and hope JC would indulge me. We’ll see… if you’re reading this at The Vinyl Villain, I guess he has. If you’re reading it at My Top Ten, I guess he told me where to stick it.

Side A

1. The Rubettes

I came late to The Auteurs, in 1999, around the time Haines was getting sick of the whole business of trying to be in an indie pop band and was ready to pack it all in. (Read his first excellent biography Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall for more on that.) It turns out though that I’d already “discovered” Luke Haines the year before through the debut album by Black Box Recorder. I just didn’t make the Auteurs connection until How I Learned To Love The Bootboys was released. It was a very confusing time. Story of my life, really: I came late to most of the bands I ended up loving.

The Rubettes is the song that set the tone for much of Haines’ solo work – a grimly nostalgic longing for his youth in the 70s and 80s, loving and scathing in equal measures. The single got quite a bit of airplay at the time: not bad for a song with a chorus about masturbating while listening to the radio.

Hells angels on TV
And your biker ’73
Sew on patch – cycle chains
Iron cross on your C&A’s
Can’t get in the disco
Can’t dance anyway

2. Show Girl

Back to the beginning then, and the opening track from the debut Auteurs album, New Wave. Released in 1993, when Britpop was but a twitch in Brett Anderson’s underpants, it immediately established Haines as one of the most entertaining lyricists of his era – like a less romantic Jarvis, or a Morrissey who doesn’t both hate and love himself*.

*I suppose I should explain that remark, especially here in the Former Republic of Morrissey Fandom, now renamed isntheatwatland. Morrissey has clearly made a career out of a curious mix of self-love and self-loathing. Haines combines the wit and cynicism we all loved about pre-Brexit Moz with a healthy dose of iconoclasm… but you never get the feeling that he’s a nasty man. In fact, he seems like quite a jolly chap in person… something which surprised and confounded our glorious leader when he caught him live back in 2017. (By the way, if you’re interested in what Luke Haines thinks about Morrissey, this review is worth a read, although I suspect he’d be less charitable nowadays.)

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, Show Girl…

I married a showgirl
That’s for life
She can’t work
In the wintertime
I can’t work anytime now
Go to libraries all the while
Looking for a notice
Biding my time

3. Unsolved Child Murder

Around the time the chirpy-chirpy cheep cheep of Country House / Wonderwall Britpop was at its jingoistic peak, Luke Haines threw himself off a fifteen foot wall so he wouldn’t have to be involved in it all anymore, then spent a year writing an album about dead children and plane crashes.

Imagine a terminally depressed Ray Davies with his tongue firmly lodged in his arse cheek. After Murder Park predates This Is Hardcore by two years, but the two records share a similar desire to hammer six inch nails into the coffin of Britpop once and for all.

Haines’ bleak sense of humour obviously survived the fall in one piece.

4. Johnny & The Hurricanes

For an artist so steeped in all things English, Luke Haines also has a great affection for American pop music. On American Guitars, he professed his love for grunge, while here he strays back to the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll, clearly explaining why rock ‘n’ roll seemed so exciting when heard via “English tarmac, English rain”.

There’s a sting in this tale though, as at the height of their fame, Johnny & The Hurricanes headlined the Star Club in Hamburg… where they were supported by a bunch of British upstarts called The Beatles. At least, I presume this is why Haines chose to write about this particular band… I may be wrong.

5. Lenny Valentino 

Let’s conclude Side A with the single that got the Auteurs closer to the UK Top 40 than any other… and what better position to stall at in that endeavour than #41?

Side B

1. Light Aircraft On Fire

More gloriously outrageous doom and gloom, still winking at the camera, from that most bleak “cake & eat it” anti-Britpop album, After Murder Park. Another minor hit that should have been massive… except we’d wouldn’t have loved it as much if it was.

2.  Back With The Killer Again

Video director Chris Cunningham would go on to work with Madonna, Bjork and Aphex Twin, but two of his earliest videos were for The Auteurs, most notably the grimly hilarious horror film that accompanied the title track of this particular EP. Not the sort of thing you’d expect Luke Haines to be associated with, but it’s useless trying to pigeonhole this guy.

3. How Could I Be Wrong

In which Luke defines himself as a groundbreaker, pallbearer, actor, peacemaker, plan hatcher lifesaver and soul snatcher. How could he be wrong?

4. Chinese Bakery

Always reminds me of Lloyd Cole, this one. I think it’s as close as Luke gets to a love song…

Got a roller coaster in my head
You press the button – I’ll eject
Your present is just somebody’s past
Don’t blink, pinch me twice
Just seen Bob Dylan on a motorbike
I don’t think this relationship will last

5.  New French Girlfriend

…well, apart from this one, which has just about the loveliest opening line you could expect from that “curmudgeonly king of anti-Britpop” (thanks again, J.C.). If I had to pick, this would probably be my favourite Auteurs song. Don’t ask me why though, I haven’t a clue.

Want a girl to hold my hand
When the plane lands
When the cracks appear in the plan
And the rocks turn into sand
Better call my new French girlfriend

ROL

JC adds……….this is the first of three splendid ICAs coming your way courtesy of Rol.  He’s done something I’ve long thought about by tackling the two bands and the solo careers and his choices wouldn’t be all that different from mine.  Huge thanks from me……

Oh and here’s that video he referred to; it’s actually quite hard to find:-

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL MY FRIENDS WAY OVER YONDER

mp3 : The Auteurs – American Guitars

And just to avoid any confusion, Luke Haines was NOT having a dig at grunge as many have long believed (including myself). He said this in an interview a few years back:-

Totally misunderstood. I thought all those Seattle bands Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad etc. were great. (I thought Teenage Fanclub were great but for some reason I never would have admitted it at the time) I thought the British slacker imitators were weak. I thought all those British bands that came before (MBV, Slowdive etc) were fundamentally simple minded and weak. The Auteurs were not weak.

JC

READ IT IN BOOKS : LUKE HAINES (1)

LHBadVibes

A bit pressed for time just now, but no apologies for this re-posting from January 2009. It follows-on nicely from yesterday’s effort:-

There’s been a substantial number of good reviews about this book…..and here’s another one coming.

For those of you who don’t know, Luke Haines first came to fame as a member of The Autuers, before later making records under his own name, as well as a member of Baader Meinhoff and Black Box Recorder. The fact that first chart success coincided with the rise of a few other UK bands at a time when American bands and grunge was the dominant force. This led to Mr Haines, along with the likes of Brett Anderson of Suede, to be christened as the founding-fathers of Britpop….

But this bio, which covers 1992 -1997, makes it quite clear that Luke Haines had very no time or most of his peers. Indeed, an anecdote that pre-dates The Autuers has the author admitting and illustrating that he has always had an arrogant and cocky attitude, an astounding sense of self-importance and a massive ego. But he argues that he had the talent which justified all of this and therefore has every right to be so dismissive of those in the music industry whom he felt had little or no ability.

There’s a very long roll-call of folk who really do get it with both barrels within the 243 pages, some of them being heroes of mine that I have long loved and admired (e.g. Matt Johnson of The The). Sometimes I was wincing as I read a particularly barbed paragraph, but mostly I was nodding in agreement, or indeed laughing out loud.

By the end of the book, I had no doubt in my mind that Luke Haines is someone who cares passionately about music, but has no time not for the music industry or those who service it. Some of his best passages are about journalists, and he takes great pleasure in some of the things said about him over the years. For instance, one scathing reviewer in Melody Maker thought they were insulting him by describing him as the new Nick Lowe, little realising that for Luke Haines, that was just about as big a compliment he could be given.

One of the other things the book reminded me of was how few Britpop singles went to #1 and how the very highest echelons of the pop charts were as rank rotten during this so-called golden era as they are now – Mr Blobby, 2 Unlimited, Take That, Mariah Carey, East 17 and Robson & Jerome are among the acts that hit the top spot. And what Luke Haines has written has got me thinking just how much of Britpop will be truly remembered in 20 or 30 years time outwith Blur, Pulp, Suede and Oasis (and of course, the first two of these bands had been around for a few years before the actual movement).

I don’t agree with every word that is in the book as I reckon a number of the acts that Luke rails against had some talent. In the introduction, our esteemed author makes it quite clear that he wishes things had turned out differently, and while there’s a lot of bitterness, the vitriol and poison is laced with too much humour, much of it self-deprecating, for the book to leave any lingering bad taste. Indeed in his intro, the author makes it clear the he didn’t set out on an exercise in score settling – although he also acknowledges that the casual reader may have every reason to beg differ – and that what he has written is very much what he thought at the time, not necessarily what he thinks now. Nor does he bear any ill towards the people and characters in the book…..although I think that might just be stretching things a bit far.

I’m guessing that most folk who pop into TVV consider themselves fairly serious music fans. Well, I reckon every serious music fan would enjoy devouring Bad Vibes on first reading, and then a few weeks later will be more than happy to read it again….it’s a real early highlight of 2009.

Oh and it also made me want to go back and listen to some of the great music he’s made over the years:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – How Could I Be Wrong (1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Lenny Valentino (single version) (1994)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Unsolved Child Murder (live on French Radio) (1996)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – England Made Me (1998)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Andrew Ridgeley (2003)
mp3 : Luke Haines – Leeds United (2007)

Enjoy