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The Auteurs

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  • Now I'm A Cowboy,
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    The Auteurs

    Related Artists - Belle And Sebastian, Cats On Fire, Jarvis Cocker
    Related Genres - Alternative

    New Wave 9 ( 1993, UK pos 35 )
    Show Girl / Bailed Out / American Guitars / Junk Shop Clothes / Don't Trust The Stars / Starstruck / How Could I Be Wrong / Housebreaker / Valet Parking / Idiot Brother / Early Years / Home Again

    Three bands released albums, 14th February 1993. One was Radiohead, one was Saint Etienne and one was The Auteurs. Of those three names, you may only know one - and that's Radiohead. But who released the better of the three? You're looking right at it. Still not the best album released in 1993, mind you. That honour falls to The Boo Radleys amazingly kaleidoscopic classic 'Giant Steps'. By now, those of you rooted in classic rock and unfamiliar with UK indie music of the eighties and nineties are probably scratching their heads and moving onto another web-site to read something else! But, persevere. Just because something is ( relatively ) new, doesn't mean it's bad! This works vice-versa. There are many music fans who hold anything released more than five years ago as being irrelevant. Still, none of this matters, I suppose. I'm just a guy who gets interested in such things, forgive me. Let's move forwards, shall we? Okay, then! The Auteurs 'New Wave'? Nothing New Wave in the musical sense about it, but a breath of fresh air circa 1993, anyway. Music that is elegant, somehow. Music with poetic lyrics that remind you of Ray Davies of The Kinks a little. An album seemingly obsessed with stardom, but from an outsiders point of view. The opening 'Show Girl' was the top 41 (?!?) hit single that launched The Auteurs. Luke Haines is the leading creative force, singing, playing the guitar and writing the songs. He's backed up by a drummer and a bass player. Occasionally a cello player too, most attractively. Anyways, 'Showgirl' is a story, evocative - the vocals are double-tracked through the verses as Luke seems to sing harmony with himself. It's a great, rich, glorious sound. From a showgirl to mentions of stardom failing in 'Bailed Out' through to a dig at the US grunge scene with 'American Guitars', which ironically, features plenty of guitars. More so than other songs here, but of course that was the point.

    The sense that 'New Wave' is a wonderfully constructed album comes through in the clarity, richness yet simplicity of many of the musical backings but also in the fact the songs move well into each other. Each one of the first three songs are different to each other in tempo and musical feel, yet all share the same musical feel, if that makes sense? It's something many of the best albums manage to do. Not sounding like a dozen different bands, but not sounding like you've taken one song and repeated it twelve times either. So, we're somewhere in-between and 'Junk Shop Clothes' is so lovely yet with a helping of humour, too. 'Genius' is a word you may care to throw around. The opening 'Show Girl' had been an instant classic. 'Junk Shop Clothes' and 'Bailed Out' aren't too far behind. We've more mentions of stars in the uptempo, melodic and guitar led 'Don't Trust The Stars', which arrives immediately before 'Starstruck'. Do you see a theme developing here? 'Starstruck' is a beauty of a ballad in any case.

    Thinking back to The Sixties for a second. Was Luke Haines thinking back? Perhaps he took to certain things? Albums constructed with a hit single to open and another hit single somewhere around the middle, usually to open the second side of the ( then ) vinyl album. And so it is with 'New Wave', second single 'How Could I Be Wrong' is akin to 'Showgirl' but with a different lyrical feel and a different, more biting guitar sound. The same, yet not the same. 'House Breaker' launches straight into such a fabulous melody and such wonderful lyrics that grinning is a distinct possibility. Opening lyric? "When I first met you / You were not housetrained", and so it goes on. A nice, spine tingling musical touch and attention to detail is the harmonica that arrives through the instrumental break. Similar attention to detail turns 'Valet Parking' into something that brings me to tears, tears of absolute joy. Glockenspiel? Well yeah, but it's used so sparingly. The entire album sounds wonderfully fresh, even ten years after it was first released. Timeless, I suppose. The closing three songs are good too, yet merely repeating what's gone before. Well, the closing 'Home Again' starts all strummed acoustic then eventually launches into Luke singing over himself - the cello appears. It's just so very beautiful, you know?

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    Ben P bpick99@hotmail.com
    This is a really good album. When I first got it, roughly 3 years ago, I listened to it a lot. Then I kind of forgot about it for a while, then 'rediscovered' it. I think the lyrics are what really make this album; American Guitars is a great piece of songwriting: "Woke up Sunday morning, with a hole the size of my pool." I love that! Most of the songs sound similar, but I like them all. This Luke Haines guy can write some awesome lyrics, as evidenced by his later work in Black Box Recorder.

    Adrian Hughes adrianhughes67@yahoo.co.uk
    I was reluctantly dragged along to King Tuts in Glasgow to see the band not long after New Wave was released; it was a blind date so the nerves were shredded. Anyway, Luke stoated on to the stage, obviously pissed, clutching a bottle of red wine and exuding pure belligerence. He'd won me over before striking a single chord. The set was among the best I've seen with Luke spitting out his lyrics. Junk Shop Clothes was the highlight. Afterwards, barely a grunt toward the audience before shambling back off stage, superb! The date never worked out but the music remains with me.

    Now I'm A Cowboy ( 1994, UK pos 27 )
    Lenny Valentino / Brainchild / I'm A Rich Mans Toy / New French Girlfriend / The Upper Classes / Chinese Bakery / A Sister Like You / Underground Movies / Life Classes - Life Model / Modern History / Daughter Of A Child

    I can't easily explain why I find this so inferior to 'New Wave', although I will strive to explain during the course of this review. Luke Haines himself has said something along the lines that 'Now I'm A Cowboy' was the only time he went all out to attempt to create a popular record in commercial terms. To build upon 'New Wave' then, the same elements are seemingly retained, plus an added harder, rockier edge to the guitars in places. The sound and the guitars aren't the problem. The songs themselves are the problem, they do sound like they are trying too hard to impress. The opening single was 'Lenny Valentino', two minutes and twenty seconds of guitars and energy, but it's a piece of nothing compared to the elegance and intelligence of 'Showgirl', which opened the previous album. 'Brainchild' sounds very similar to the songs from 'New Wave', cello and all. So, how does it fail, exactly? Well, it sounds like a facsimile. That's the best way I can put it. It doesn't sound natural and the song doesn't quite flow. Ah, I know what it is. Attention to detail. 'Valet Parking' from 'New Wave' had that glorious echoed vocal refrain to close the song. 'Brainchild' lacks any such touches, touches that were all over the songs and recordings on 'New Wave'.

    I'm A Rich Mans Toy' adds the noisy guitar attack that 'Now I'm A Cowboy' overall sometimes demonstrates. 'New French Girlfriend' is striving too hard to give what you think the people want. It's a nice song, don't get me wrong, but it's overlong and the harmonies underdeveloped. So, where are the successes on this album? 'Chinese Bakery' works because it's simple. 'Lenny Valentino' worked for the same reason. 'A Sister Like You' has a sparse sound, cello, not much else. A swoon-some vocal performance, a great track. The closing four songs very much pass me by. Inferior copies/clones of 'New Wave' material lacking the same amount of, well, love - in the recording and construction of said songs. That's it. Ah, correction. The very last song, 'Daughter Of A Child' is a simple little acoustic strum with added bass, a few drums - very simple song. It works, it's sweet. The simple, throwaway songs, probably intended as filler, work here. The big supposed epics, such as 'New French Girlfriend' or 'The Upper Classes' sound too eager to please and as a result, don't. Not quite. I was upset.

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    August sntrsaugust@aol.com
    Wow, you are really harsh on this album. I love this album far more than 'New Wave' because I believe it is far more developed lyrically and musically. This was my first intro. to The Auteurs and I think it just has so many layers sonically going on in it. It really rocks as well as incorporating some wonderful violin, cello, etc. which is what gives the sound so much texture. Each song is wonderfully unique and I adore Luke's songwriting. He is really fixated on death and dying but keeps giving it a different, fresh spin on every track. 'After Murder Park' is my favorite album of theirs cause it just rocks hard then slows down for a breather. Luke gets incredibly dark on this album and I love how he juxtaposes his songs about death & dying against more upbeat almost positive music. 'Light aircraft on fire' is my favorite on the album but 'Child Brides' is amazingly dark yet beautiful. I must admit that I think it is misplaced on the album & really sounds better lat! er in the album. I love the song in it's rich tapestry of story told but it significantly slows the momentum down & when I listen to this I want to rock. I'd give this a 10, 'Cowboy' a 9, and 'New Wave'an 8. They only got better after 'New Wave', which I believe is too fey, not ballsy enough. I love it mind you but I listen to the other two much more often.

    After Murder Park 8 ( 1996 )
    Light Aircraft On Fire / Child Brides / Land Lovers / New Brat In Town / Everything You Say Will Destroy You / Unsolved Child Murder / Married To A Lazy Lover / Buiddha / Tombstone / Fear Of Flying / Dead Sea Navigators / After Murder Park

    Recorded by Steve Albini. But, wait a second. The Auteurs?? A cello recorded by Steve Albini?? Yeah, it was an unlikely match, but surprisingly it works. Luke Haines builds upon his earlier 'doings' and gets angrier and bitter, at, well, everything as far as I can tell. The Steve Albini production is as you would expect, big drum sound even though The Auteurs drummer probably isn't the greatest on earth. Big guitar sound, etc, etc. Distortion. Luke Haines rises to the occasion. Songs like 'New Brat In Town', 'Everything You Say Will Destroy You' and 'Land Lovers' are very entertaining in their spite and bile - if not terribly melodic, but they work. More melodic, and right in The Auteurs style of old arrives this albums highlights, however. Two songs, the opening 'Light Aircraft On Fire' and the mid-way 'Unsolved Child Murder'. The cello arrives back in the sound, recorded clearly and simply by albini, who for once resists his usual temptations. Glorious lyrics and the same is true of 'Light Aircraft On Fire', although that particular song is perhaps the single best cross between noise and anger and The Autuers of old that 'After Murder Park' demonstrates.

    Oh yeah! Of course, and I nearly forgot. 'Married To A Lazy Lover' is glorious. The cello mixes with the distorted guitars and the angry lyrics, the song switches between quiet and loud ( aka albini, producer of Pixies and Nirvana ) but fully retains unique Auteurs qualities. Luke Haines sure can write lyrics. 'Bubbha' is too simple for my liking, an angry repetitive shout that doesn't suit them. A couple of other songs are fairly nondescript, but the closing title song is back again to 'New Wave' territory, magical and delicate, very melodic and very clever. Sing a long, yet it's still clever. A good album this, actually. It's hardly as cohesive or consistent as 'New Wave', but it's good to have around and listen to. Very enjoyable and repeat playable. It creates an atmosphere.

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    Stephen Murphy writeme@stephenmurphy.com
    Hmmm. Bought this on the strength of this review but I'm not sure. The acid-black chamber pop of Unsolver child murder and 'after murder park' cut like a knife but the rest of the album is a little soupy (Albini wearing mittens again - if ever there was an overrated producer...) and in parts Oasis-ish. I'd give this a 6 or a 7. Haines has had finer hours.

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