Back in the 90s, the britpop wars saw every tabloid and their easily led readers arguing over who was best: Oasis or Blur. Those who believed themselves cooler than that pointed out the ‘correct’ answer should be Pulp. The truly enlightened knew it was The Auteurs led by Luke Haines.
The story of The Auteurs and other things is told in Bad Vibes subtitled Britpop My Part In Its Downfall. This is the sequel, covering 1997-2005 with the subtitle Outsider Rock’n’Roll, featuring the end of The Auteurs, the career of Black Box Recorder and solo projects.
As a songwriter Haines best work, of which there is plenty, resembles a southern blend of less pretentious, less narcissistic Jarvis Cocker meets wittier, more self-aware Mark E Smith in a Go-Betweens/70s glam pop tribute band with a thing for serial killers and terrorists. No songwriter could have been more apt to create the soundtrack to a film of Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry. As a writer he is waspish, knowingly misanthropic, bitchy without camp (he digresses at one point to explain the dangers of failed camp) yet occasionally tender or sympathetic. He also talks to the late Biggie Smalls, and to a Talking Cat previously owned by Chris Blackwell, mostly as a device for self-deprecation and avoiding more disastrous than normal career choices.
Ah yes, disastrous career choices. Naming a side-project Baader-Meinhof, calling your record company c**** in NME because he was disturbed by his A&R man’s dog, a National Theatre musical based on the life of Nicholas van Hoogstraten, etc. Tales told with relish by Haines who seems to realise his flirtation with success scares him and he sabotages it. It’s a weird self-reflective schadenfreude.
That’s when record company incompetence doesn’t save him the trouble. The recording of Black Box Recorder’s second album Facts of Life was funded by 4 different record companies providing money for demos.
On one level Haines’ story is the typical midlist cycle of demos, promo gigs, poor support, being signed, dropped, re-signed, re-dropped ad nauseum. On others its a gripping near car crash populated with vicious jibes at Haines’ alleged peers (a band from Manchester disparaged in Bad Vibes as The Rutles are here dismissed as Dumb and Dumber, Richard Ashcroft is deservedly slated, and Primal Scream… oh dear.) Industry hangers on get the same treatment, and the only remorse is for innocent bystander “‘Philip’ from Rising Damp” who encounters a very drunk Haines in the street.
Funniest moments? Haines and BBR compatriot John Moore getting drunk on absinthe before gatecrashing the Glenn Hoddle resignation Press conference, where Moore asked the question in everyone’s mind. “Glenn, are you thick?”
my introduction to a man that all sentient beings could surely only ever think of as a nincompoop has been happily derailed. I am wrong. Out of the mists of the VIP area returns The Drummer Out of Supergrass. He has been successful in his quest, and walking behind him is the tiny, yet oddly puffed up figure of the extremely silly singer out of U2. These situations never play out well.
There’s so much, much more of this. The best prose encapsulation of Tony Blair, for instance, but read it yourselves.
Luke Haines’ latest project is 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early 80s was one of my albums of 2011. Buy it, make him successful, more pissed off, and hopefully generate material for more volumes like Post Everything.
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