New Wave: A Track By Track Retrospective With The Auteurs' Luke Haines

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During this current craze of re-examining the playground bombsite of 90s nostalgia, much of the the shrapnel and detritus of the 90s indie explosion that was BRIT POP! Is being fished out and stuffed up the jumpers of cool kids. Sadly, during the excavation, quite a few bands have unfairly fallen to the wayside, and down the sofas. Bands such as Pulp, Oasis or Blur are taking up the downloads, while their contemporaries are pushed into the shadows. A 90s band that deserves a massive re-examination are The Auteurs, who at the time (pre Brit Pop), were often lumped in with Suede, which would be too easy a comparison, too lazy and too wrong. While Suede were all perfume, nuclear skies, concrete prostitutes and offal, The Auteurs were a world of high flying horses, failed Hollywood careers and shattered sepia dancing girls, weeping at the body of Rudolph Valentino.

This was escapism, but not an urban decay filled with dead junkies and discarded popper bottles. An unfulfilled, tragic dream, peppered with subtle social commentary, morbid fascinations and social phobias. Each song was like a drunk-drive down the boulevard of broken dreams, with Haines himself acting as Hunter S.Thompson to the music business lie, waving his freshly drawn revolver at the low-flying bats of the industry, warning us about the shape of things to come and how we really shouldn't stop there.

The album New Wave was a shot in the arm to a 16 year old me. Suede had affected me, yes, but New Wave had moved me. It had spoken to me about my life. I had gone through years of American musical domination via Grunge and metal and artists like Haines were showing me that we had better music right here. There was also THAT Select cover, which in retrospect felt like some sort of bungling Dad's Army production in a youth club.

New Wave just didn't pause for breath, it shot along like a Japanese bullet-train, starting with the lamentation of marrying into showbiz (Showgirl), and ending (just a mere 43 minutes later) with the warm and subtle delicacy of Home Again.

It is an alluring album that somehow gets criminally overlooked.

“I envisaged the 'group' as a studio thing with me as the only member” - I caught up with Luke Haines to ask all about it.

“I'd been in groups before and couldn't be bothered with all that caper. Finding a drummer who'd stick around for more than two weeks, finding a bass player who wasn't a muso idiot or just a common or garden idiot. I forced myself to write songs. I knew I had at least one good album in me. If I could manage to get one album released on any old pipsqueak dodgy label that would be enough for me. My musical ambitions considerably out weighed my business/commercial 'aspirations'”

Haines had a plan, “At the end of 1990 I bought a fostex four track machine and over the next few months made what I considered to be good quality demos of all the songs that ended up being on New Wave. By early 1991 it became clear that I wasn't going to get away with this caper without a band that could play in the shitholes of London. Reluctantly I enlisted Alice (Readman – bass) and Glenn (Collins - drums). Even more reluctantly I went about the dispiriting business of 'securing' gigs. It should be noted that I never considered The Auteurs to be a band. The closest it ever got was the 3 piece line up that played the early gigs and supported on the first Suede tour in summer 1992. Alice and Glenn, sweetly and sincerely really dug my songs and told me to my face. Which they didn't have to do, so they were absolutely behind the 'band'. By late 1993 on our first headline tour it became clear that the rhythm section were dragging down what I wanted to do musically, and so gradually the pro's got drafted in, and The Auteurs were well and truly a solo act.

James (Banbury – cello) and Barney (Rockford – drum) were great musicians. I don't think they gave a shit about the songs I was writing and they were playing. They were just along for the ride and the wage. I had mixed feelings about this – Suede were a proper band, each member was utterly committed to the wig wam bam they were taking up and down the country. Pulp were also a proper band (when I heard 'My Legendary Girlfriend' I knew they were going to be huge.) On one hand I really wished that we could have been a proper band. On the other hand I'd seen enough of proper bands to last me a life time. Put four individuals in a tour bus and send them round the country in a tour bus and you create an arsehole machine on wheels”.

So on to the songs:

Showgirl

Might be the first good song that I wrote. The inspiration came from a Grant McClennan song (oddly not a Robert Forster song) called 'Broadway Bride.' I've no idea what 'Showgirl' is about. It wrote itself so I didn't argue with it.

Bailed Out

Was an old tune that I'd written when I was around 16. It was meant to sound like the theme to 'The Protectors' (Avenues and Alleyways) Luckily it didn't. On the 'New Wave' version I play everything on it apart from the Cello and the percussion. Years ago I remember reading an interview with the guy from Dream Academy (Yep!) he said something like 'Forever Changes' was built with playing it in a pub in Clapham in mind. This was the attitude I took to 'New Wave.' 'Bailed Out' in particular.

American Guitars

Totally misunderstood. I thought all those Seattle bands Nirvana, Mudhoney, Tad etc. were great. (I thought the 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.

Junk Shop Clothes

Written in a supermarket. Asda in Southgate N. London. Most of the songs for New Wave were written without the aid of dictation devices. I just carried them around in my head until I could get to a tape recorder.

Don't Trust The Stars

Put on the album merely for pace and sequencing. I don't much care for the smart arse rationalistic lyric. But it at least shows that in terms of putting an album together I knew what I was doing. For some reason Don't Trust The Stars remained in the live set for years.

Starstruck

About the Warhol/Paul Morrissey film Heat. Good chords. Wichita Lineman.

How Could I Be Wrong

New Wave was recorded (mid 92) just at the point where I'd extricated The Beatles from my life (I bet they were relieved!), sounds very 'White Album' influenced to me. No matter, it's a pretty good song.

Housebreaker

Great song. Crap production. The Rough Trade single version without the moronic drum part is far superior. Good harmonica solo (by me) though.

Valet Parking

Often thought to have ransacked the Go Betweens' 'Draining The Pool For You', the subject matter was similar but the Forster song was far from my mind...I was thinking more about 'Do you know the way to San Jose?' Good production job on this track by Phil Vinall.

Idiot Brother

I was furious with a certain independent record label. Pulp know. This is just a 6 minute rant with a good riff. Some of the lyrics are lifted directly form communiques with unsaid label.

Early Years

Ever noticed the similarity between this and a Nirvana B side? Me neither. Rocks the fuck out. I think we played this live for years.

Home Again

I can't remember where and how this song came about. I still play it. I remember that Glenn the drummer thought that the recording sounded a bit 'remedial.' Which it does and which is good.

Do yourself a favour, even if you've heard it loads of times, listen to New Wave today. Also go to www.lukehaines.co.uk and explore the rest of his incredible catalogue.