Palimpsest  

Go Back   Palimpsest > Reviews > Other Reviews

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 26th Aug 2004, 15:51   #1
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default The Greatest Genius Who Ever Lived 2: Luke Haines

Ah, Luke Haines, the musical Graham Greene, the modern Morrissey, “the avenging ghost at the Britpop party” – although those presume that, unlike the majority of people, you’ve heard of him. Those who have – like me – consider him a sort of living god king, which is not unreasonable given that since 1993 he’s released ten great albums in ten years (all right, so 1993 to 2003 inclusive – the year of his latest release – is eleven years, but that doesn’t sound as good) – in four different guises.

New Wave by The Auteurs (1993) was, Haines says now with typical arrogance (and you can never tell whether he’s serious or not), the album that started Britpop. “And by the time Britpop really took off, I'd moved on from it all... Blur and the others were writing songs about chip shops and greyhounds and steam trains”. New Wave famously lost the Mercury Music Prize by one vote to Suede’s self-titled debut album, something which must have particularly rankled with Haines as his desire for musical fame was clear from the fact that the word “star” appeared 26 times on the album. It was also, with jangly guitar pop like “Showgirl” and “Don’t Trust the Stars”, a relatively jolly affair compared with what was to come. In the days before burning CDs was the thing to do, it must have been the most copied and distributed tape I had… Only the occasional sweet-melodied zinger like “Home Again” betrayed his twisted world view:

Quote:
Home again
Housesitting again
Rifling through your
Possessions and stuff
Things that you are
Ashamed of

You´re safe,
There´s no prowler
No creeper in your lane
It´s better than drugs,
It´s cool
To be in your home again
Now I’m A Cowboy by The Auteurs (1994) was launched with one of Haines’s best songs to date, the two minute burst of energy “Lenny Valentino.” It got – dammit – to number 41 in the charts, which kind of sealed the fate for the love-hate relationship between Haines and popular appeal. It was reviewed at the time by Q magazine as “the risky conceit of one fast one [ie Lenny Valentino] followed by ten slow ones” which was fair enough, and indeed I hated it for ages and only through blind persistence – hell, CDs cost £15 in those days – did I come to love it. It was already bleaker than New Wave, and kind of chunky and American-sounding, namechecking Truman Capote and the like, and apparently enjoyed some minor commercial success in the US, which in turn caused the ever-perverse Haines to decide that it was his least favourite of his own albums…

Baader Meinhof by Baader Meinhof (1996) was a one-off side project where, as with The Auteurs, Haines himself wrote and produced everything and the other members were little more than session musicians. A concept album about the 70s German leftist terrorists done in a funk style (oh yes), it included classic titles like “Theme From Burn, Warehouse, Burn”, “Kill Ramirez” and “There’s Gonna be an Accident”, it remains probably the least of his stuff, but some songs – like the two versions of the title track – are up there with his best music and for completist Haines fans (is there any other kind?) it’s a must-have.

After Murder Park by The Auteurs (1996) was the black third act in the Auteurs’ career. Recorded with fuzzmeister Steve Albini (who worked with Nirvana), it kicked off in true style with a catchy number called “Light Aircraft on Fire” and continued in fine form with “The Child Brides,” the first of Haines’s many songs about missing children:

Quote:
And the uncles, and the brothers
With their Sunday suits on
Search the villages and towns
The second of his songs about missing children came just four tracks later, the string-laden under-two-minuter “Unsolved Child Murder”, the musical arrangement making it a straight-facedly moving story of a family (not) coming to terms with their child’s death. The placing of simple images of the nasty side of modern life gives a new meaning to laconic lyricism:

Quote:
Since they dragged the lake
You know they sealed our fate
Cordoned off some woodland
Gave a photo to a psychic
Together with a cruel knowledge of the way other people’s minds work:

Quote:
More hate mail through the door
Didn’t know that Sundays could be useful after all
All this unpleasantness might not – quite – persuade you of the appeal of Haines and co. The appeal is in his knowledge of appealing tunes and catchy hooks to blend in with all this misanthropy. And also in his knowledge of when to leave people wanting more: most of his albums come in at between 30 and 40 minutes.

England Made Me by Black Box Recorder (199 was the first of Haines’s projects where the singing honours went to someone else, the china-doll-voiced Sarah Nixey. This was a good thing in itself as Haines’s voice was always his weakest link – whispery and thin, only just capable of holding a tune and usually underachieving in comparison to his lyrical wit or musical swoonery (here taking a more electronic form than before). Nonetheless the title alone, from Graham Greene, of their first album made it clear that the theme again was going to be the bitter side of modern Britain. And sure enough, we have “New Baby Boom”, an elliptical piece possibly about illegitimate children, “It’s Only the End of the World,” a dry bit of nihilism, and my favourite song on the album – back to the missing children – “Kidnapping an Heiress,” which combines his most seductively sweet music yet (including, unless I am mistaken, the sighing strains of a saw) with a horrible tale of cults and ransom. Nothing quite makes my skin crawl like the bit where the chorus changes from “And we’re searching for your daughter…” to “And we think we’ve found your daughter.”

How I Learned to Love the Bootboys by The Auteurs (1999) should never really have happened, as Haines had sworn that After Murder Park was the last of them – and with its relentless blackness, it was certainly hard to see where he could go from there. The answer was sideways, with a concept album (Haines once said that all his albums are concept albums) about what he called “hostalgia – hostility to the idea of nostalgia.” The opener makes that clear all right, the song “The Rubettes” taking the chorus of that group’s “Sugar Baby Love” as its refrain and combining it with memories of unhappy childhood in the 1970s and the brilliant ironic couplet:

Quote:
The future’s made of coal
The past is made of gold
This one, I think, is Haines’s shortest album, less than 35 minutes in all, but packed with incident and delight, from the desperate “Some Changes,” which sounds exactly like the musical equivalent of slipping downhill in an avalanche, to Haines’s most heartbreaking song yet, “Future Generation,” Haines imagines a, well, future generation nostalgic for The Auteurs (“the future generation / will catch my falling star”). In accepting his fate to be commercially a minor player in the world of pop, while simultaneously asserting his genius ("this music could destroy a nation") he marks a peak of a very great talent.

The Facts of Life by Black Box Recorder (2000) gave Haines his only chart hit to date; the title track reached (I think) number 20, on rash comparisons to – of all people – All Saints. The concept of this album – if we must – is sex and relationships, with a special diploma in humorous analogies, from “The Art of Driving” which compared over-enthusiastic young love to over-enthusiastic young drivers:

Quote:
I wish you'd learn to slow down
You might get there in the end
Don't think that the accelerator pedal
Is a man's best friend
To “The English Motorway System,” which anatomises a dead relationship with comparison to, well…

Quote:
When you think the journey's over
Let me know
Don't make me wait
Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry by Luke Haines (2001) was his first album under his own name, and a soundtrack to the (terrible) film version of B.S. Johnson’s (excellent) novel. Apart from the mood music, there are half a dozen new Haines songs, including the excellent “Discomania” (“they’re having sex / To ‘The Kids In America’”), and a couple of typical Haines compositions such as “How to Hate the Working Classes” and “England, Scotland and Wales,” where, with his usual self-effacement, he proposes a new National Anthem for the divided kingdom with, naturally, one sovereign (“God save me / Send me victorious”).

The Oliver Twist Manifesto by Luke Haines (2001) was his first solo album proper, released just a month after the Christie Malry soundtrack. I had my doubts about it to begin with, and musically it’s probably his least appealing album, riddled with piddling drumbeats and anaemic arrangements, but lyrically the venom this time is all towards the art establishment (“Death of Sarah Lucas”, “Mr and Mrs Solanas”) with the obligatory bigging-up of the Haines myth in the song “Christ” (“at the age of thirty three and a third / that’s the time that Christ spent on this earth”). It grew on me, but is definitely only for converts.

Passionoia by Black Box Recorder (2003) was supposed to be a “pop” album, although the cover image of a body floating in a swimming pool circa the Michael Barrymore controversy probably didn’t help its chart success… I think it was BBR’s best album, perfectly poppy but with the usual undercurrent of jolly-hockey-sticks wickedness, dealing variously in lonely hearts ads in “GSOH QED”:

Quote:
Recent widower, young at heart
Seeks lady ballroom dancing partner

Rugged, handsome, virile stallion
(Two faced, impotent, spineless reptile)

Old-fashioned romance, perfect chemistry
(Uninhibited – afternoons free)
and former pop idols (“Andrew Ridgeley”), to the modern Heat-magazine culture (“Girl’s Guide for the Modern Diva”):

Quote:
All you've got to do to be a real diva
Is sit in silence
Dripping diamonds
On the back seat of a limousine

This is the cut-out-and-keep, read-it-and-weep
Guide for the real diva -
Speeding through the night
You don't need to watch the stars
Which brings us to cap it all with Das Capital by Luke Haines (2003) – he wanted to call it Mein Kampf apparently, but still got his elegantly perverse way with the subtitle: “The Songwriting Genius of Luke Haines and the Auteurs.” It’s a best-of (“A Greatest Hits, we all know, would have made a very brief listen” said Haines), but counts as a new album because he not only did the standard thing of having three new songs but also re-recorded all the others with an orchestra… But it works brilliantly, elegant and intelligent and seductive where the originals were occasionally forbidding (Lenny Valentino and Baader Meinhof get the strings treatment to terrific effect) and the new songs are superlative: “Satan Wants Me” for which Britney Spears’s “Toxic” owes a strong debt of inspiration surely (no really), and “The Mitford Sisters” which neatly encapsulates the literary-fascistic family’s fortunes in five minutes of strain and string.

So there. Reliable and prolific, like Iain Banks only without the dip in quality. I can’t wait for his next self-aggrandising project.
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st Aug 2004, 14:44   #2
amner
Administrator
is beyond help
 
amner's Avatar
 
Join Date: 10 Apr 2003
Location: Cambridge
Posts: 10,918
Default

Ooh, how odd, just reading this and Bailed Out by the Auteurs comes crashing across my iTunes.

Quote:
We can bitch
but it ain't tinsel town
Hey! Starchild
Cool.
__________________
amner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th Jul 2005, 14:27   #3
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

Today sees the first Luke Haines release in two years - and the second compilation in two years. Luke Haines is Dead is a 3-CD collection of A-sides, B-sides, sessions and rarities, which at 63 tracks manages to exceed even Nick Cave's recent three-disc behemoth.

Luke Haines, I presume, isn't dead - but he might as well be. The last new material from him was on 2003's Das Capital collection, two fantastic songs (Satan Wants Me and The Mitford Sisters) and one crap one (Bugger Bognor). The last all-new album was in 2001, The Oliver Twist Manifesto. After making nine albums in nine years between 1993's New Wave and then, a four-year hiatus seems like the silence of the grave. Come back Luke! We still love you! (Well I do anyway.)
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th Jul 2005, 22:43   #4
Stewart
Once known as Blixa
takes it to extremes
 
Stewart's Avatar
 
Join Date: 26 May 2005
Location: Glasgow
Posts: 6,884
Send a message via MSN to Stewart
Default

I've been a fan of Luke Haines and The Auteurs since 1995. I borrowed Now I'm A Cowboy from the local library and loved it - first song I heard wasChinese Bakery as someone hadn't rewound the cassette from from the end of side one.

I ended up buying that (on CD) and New Wave and, the CD you've not mentioned; the remix collaboration of Now I'm A Cowboy by Mike Paradinas aka mu-ziq.

Light Aircraft On Fire was released before After Murder Park and it appeared in the school's jukebox. For some reason, it played at the wrong speed which made Buddha sound weird, but fun.

Baader Meinhof, in my opinion, is one of his best albums - stripping the sound down to funky guitar, some strings, and the occasional barrage of handclaps really worked for me alhough, as you say, I wanted more.

Of the three Black Box Recorder albums I prefer England Made Me; but I do have a penchant for depressing stuff.

Das Capital, I found to be excellent - the songs really took something from being given the string backing. Future Generation, especially, gets the sound it deserves.

I can't wait to buy the new compilation (need to wait to payday) and I believe there's plans for a download only live album later in the year.

Luke, apparently, is supposed to be working on a musical although it may just be rumour. He's doing four gigs in England which is a shame as I'd have liked to have seen him here.
__________________
Reading: Concrete Island, J.G. Ballard| flickr | blog | world lit | beer
Stewart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th Jul 2005, 23:05   #5
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

Hurray for another Haines disciple! You're right, I left out The Auteurs v μ-ziq simply because I'd forgotten about it - but also, with retrospective justification, hem hem, because Haines didn't actually have anything to do with it. I had it but got rid of it during a clearout on the not unreasonable grounds that it was, as Haines himself said, "fucking unlistenable."

I also omitted the two After-Murder-Park-era EPs, Back with the Killer Again (which featured the title track, not on the album, and the very fine Car Crash and the less very fine Kenneth Anger's Bad Dream alongside Unsolved Child Murder - those three non-album tracks appear on Luke Haines is Dead). Or was Former Fan one of those, in which case one of those songs wasn't on it? And Kids Issue, which had a couple of Peel sessions and two new songs, Kids Issue and A New Life, A New Family, both of which again feature on the new compilation.

I worked out that I don't have 12 of the 63 songs on the compilation (not counting different mixes or sessions of songs I have), mostly B-sides from the early days as I had most of the singles from Lenny Valentino onwards. So that's like a whole new Luke Haines album to look forward to! Roll on payday indeed.

I'd like to see him live too, but if he isn't going to Glasgow then the chances of him coming to Belfast are remote.
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th Jul 2005, 23:11   #6
Stewart
Once known as Blixa
takes it to extremes
 
Stewart's Avatar
 
Join Date: 26 May 2005
Location: Glasgow
Posts: 6,884
Send a message via MSN to Stewart
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
I had it but got rid of it during a clearout on the not unreasonable grounds that it was, as Haines himself said, "fucking unlistenable."
I don't know about that; saying that, I'd be quite happy having Aphex Twin's Ventolin as my phone's ringtone if I was to get a modern phone. I managed Nic Endo's White Heat EP without any problem (back in the 90s) and that was just 20+ minutes of white noise. :D

Quote:
I also omitted the two After-Murder-Park-era EPs, Back with the Killer Again (which featured the title track, not on the album, and the very fine Car Crash and the less very fine Kenneth Anger's Bad Dream alongside Unsolved Child Murder - those three non-album tracks appear on Luke Haines is Dead). Or was Former Fan one of those, in which case one of those songs wasn't on it? And Kids Issue, which had a couple of Peel sessions and two new songs, Kids Issue and A New Life, A New Family, both of which again feature on the new compilation.
Are you sure Car Crash was on Back With The Killer Again? I thought it was a B-side to Light Aircraft On Fire.
__________________
Reading: Concrete Island, J.G. Ballard| flickr | blog | world lit | beer
Stewart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 18th Jul 2005, 23:20   #7
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

You could be right, yes, which would make Former Fan the fourth track on Back with the Killer Again. Car Crash, to the uninitiated, started with the fine lines:

Quote:
Tuesday aliens landed in the desert
and on Thursday somebody got murdered
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21st Jul 2005, 23:01   #8
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

Two-thirds of the way through listening to Luke Haines is Dead and the tears of gratitude are practically rolling down my cheeks. The packaging may be crap (one of those old-style sandwich-style double-CD boxes, not three slim sleeves in a neat outer box like recent Nick Cave and Pet Shop Boys triples), and the cover typically Haines - creepy children:



- but the music is just extraordinary. Greatness upon greatness, and more greatness, and then more. If you've never heard Luke Haines, this is the only album you need - pretty much all of the first two Auteurs albums are included in different versions, plus much from the EPs and A-sides of the third album, After Murder Park. These make up the first two CDs, and what a treat they are. That Haines was producing such beautiful (beautiful in the same way a Gordon Burn novel is beautiful: bitterly black and barbed, but seductively ornate enough to slip down smoothly) music so rapidly, an album a year, is astonishing, but not quite as astonishing as the fact that he never achieved the fame he so much wanted to begin with, and deserved, and would almost certainly have despised. But lest we despair, his typically arrogant, self-abusing sleevenotes ("Chinese Bakery ... a great version of a good song. I just wish I hadn't written it") assures us:

Quote:
Luke Haines is not dead. He is alive and well and living in London. Let phase two begin.
I can't wait.
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 22nd Jul 2005, 22:21   #9
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

Ooh, just discovered the official Luke Haines website - I'd only been aware of lukehaines.net before, which hasn't been updated in two years, but which does have nice music in the background. Anyway, here's what he's up to:

Quote:
Rock N Roll Communiqué no. 1

This is not entertainment, this is a public information service on the whereabouts, activities and abilities of Luke Haines. As I, Kevin Charity (brother of the late Keith) write this missive, mah boss is finishing work on two new studio albums, neither of which has anything to do with Winston Churchill. He (mah boss) is then planning - along with Baroness Thatcher – to leave the country for the general election. In the interim, EMI are releasing a three-CD box set of rarities, sessions and 24-carat classics – 60+ tracks. Cupboards may have been cleared, but cherries have all been hand-picked by LH and the nation’s greatest pundits are tugging forelocks and joining the queue for extensive sleevenote duties. If this wasn’t incentive enough, EMI are also giving away a free inoculation against Avian Flu with the first 10,000 copies. So buy it or you’re brown bread.

Details of forthcoming Haines-related events will be announced on this site first.

Finally, LH has directed me to apologise for last year’s ATP no-show. The promoter Barry Hogan changed the stage time on the day, making playing logistically impossible. We wish him luck with his downfall. Now we take Berlin.

Your friend and lackey,

Kevin Charity
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 25th Jul 2005, 20:52   #10
John Self
Administrator
suffers from smallness of vision
 
John Self's Avatar
 
Join Date: 27 Jun 2003
Location: Belfast
Posts: 15,939
Default

And the Luke Haines website has a Discussion Board. From there I have discovered the following new song titles, which to the faithful sound just what we would expect, and to the uninitiated will give you a fair idea of what Saint Luke is like...

Mugabe Moonstomp
The Heritage Rock Revolution
'Ere's to Old England
Leeds United
The Walton Hop
The Glitter Band


- only the man who wrote Unsolved Child Murder could have two new songs about poptastic paedophiles. And my personal favourite:

Do the Shrug (You Cunts)
__________________
Reading Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate | Asylum | Book List
John Self is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 8:38.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.