on 10 August 2010
I've read too many books on pop, but this is straight into the top ten (with a bullet), not so much for its insights on the music, but for what it reveals about the trials, tribulations and downright horrors of being in a band. To be honest, I knew little about the Auteurs or Luke Haines before picking this up, having always casually (dis)regarded them as also-rans in a scene which itself never much interested me, whose ambition almost certainly outran their ability by several miles. Oddly, I come away from reading this book with those opinions not greatly changed, but with a tremendous sympathy for Haines himself, and the rapidity with which his vocation was crushed to powder and blown away by the relentless grinding machinery of the music business, with the album driving the tour, the tour schedule demanding the new album, the need for novelty demanding changes in production and playing personnel which Haines can barely control, in a never-ending cycle, until every last vestige of inspiration has been wrung from our hero. It's an old story of course (over which the shadow of Spinal Tap casts a lengthening shadow), but Haines tells it with savage, caustic and hugely readable wit. Mums, Dads - if your kids want to grow up to be pop stars, make them read this book...
on 18 February 2009
The best Rock Curmudgeon alive today. If you were even slightly a fan of all things Britpop - this is a must read. He hates everyone (except the drummer from Suede). His self-belief is unstoppable and his proclaimations of genius many. No one is safe from his scathing criticism,(yes, that includes YOU Justine Frishmann)and this book is all the more funny for it.
on 5 May 2009
I read Bad Vibes in one sitting. It's a real page-turner, unputdownable, etc...
It's a POV history of the bad old Britpop days by the former frontman of The Auteurs. It's a swingeing, whingeing, barking, snapping, curmudgeonly masterpiece of a memoir, with Haines' ego on overdrive and dripping with vemom at every perceived and real slight and grudge that he has absolutely no intention of forgetting or forgiving. I found it immensely funny and accurate, but then I was never a Britpop fan. He seems prone to the same sort of enthusiasms as me (anti-art, avant-garde, conspiracy theories, murder, terrorists, utopian movements...) so maybe that helped. It's a full-on rant with the charm of Niven, Stanshall, Mark E Smith or Ignatius J. Reilly.
'Bad Vibes' is Luke Haines at times brilliantly jaundiced, hopelessly partisan memoir on his 'career' in music in the 1990s. As has been noted elsewhere, Haines is determinedly outsiderist when it comes to his relations with the Music Business, and in 'Bad Vibes' he casts a bleary bloodshot eye over the Brit Pop circus that is going on around him, and it is entertaining stuff indeed. My main criticism, (and hence the docking of a star), is that it runs out of steam a little in the final thirty pages or so; I guess it's hard to maintain the level of bile and scabrous invective so masterfully manicured earlier on in the tome. Although I doubt very much whether Haines cares a jot whether you like him or not after having read the book, in the end, Haines comes across more as as a misanthropically disappointed individual than as a whingeing has-been that never quite was in the first place. He carefully describes the torturous treadmill of album recording / touring / promoting rigmarole, the often at times dire lot of the support band, bloated egos of some artists, daft decisions and awesome fickleness of fate. He also acknowledges his own failings (although not too often), but it's clear that Haines delights in being against just about everything, and if you read carefully, what he leaves out is the sense of what he is actually 'for'. A great book, with none of the kind of 'needless to say, I had the last laugh' tone of Alan Partridge's autobiography. I was never a fan of Britpop; reading this book reminds me why that was, and still is, the case!
on 5 January 2009
This is a, hate to say it, "must have" buy for all Luke Haines fans. That said, every release by the man has fallen into the category, but this, his first foray into print, is a real treat. It would work for both the devotee and the casual music fan, as a historical, completely biased treatise on that most diabolical of concepts, Britpop.
The book is disappointing in only one regard, and that is that we know little more about Haines the man than the public persona that he presents in his bitter, beautiful music. It's possible to feel some of his anger, and disappointment at his lack of commercial success, but he never makes it totally clear how he feels. Maybe I'm a little disappointed because last years amazing indie autobiography, Black Postcards by Dean Wareham was so candid that at times it felt intrustive, set an unrealistic benchmark for just how good any autobiography can be. Personally, I'd have liked to have learned a bit more about Haines as a person, and about the life experiences that have made him such a unique talent in music, and the forces and influence, on his person as much as his art, that made him write such brilliantly vitriolic and angry pop music whilst his contemporaries created such dirge and called it Britpop.
As this covers the period 92-97, I'd love to see a follow up. Arguably, Haines best work came after this - his solo efforts, and chart success with Black Box Recorder followed. It would be great to see this chronicled and laid bare.
Overall, a great book, but not as great as it could have been. As an aside, it is interesting to note the influence of his acquaintance David Peace, particularly GB84 on the style of the prose and structure of the book.
on 10 June 2009
All the more disappointing because Haines is one of my musical heroes and has shown himself onstage to be a witty, bitter man, but one capable of creating music of incredible depth and beauty. He seems embarrassed at the desperate scramble for fame and wealth, and so adopts the pose of the cynical outsider.
The problem is that he takes on the mantle of curmudgeon and is unable to cast it off - he snipes and sneers at just about everything, until we're crying out for him to say something positive about SOMEONE, just to balance the bile! As Morrissey said, "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate..."
As a history of the era, it's great, but it's nothing like as funny as you'd expect from the man. There are amazingly few direct quotes from him...a lot of the time he meets a loathed celeb or, perish the thought, someone SUCCESSFUL, and tells us what he FELT like saying, or what he was THINKING - very rarely does he actually employ his caustic wit on these offenders. He also seems to regard his pop records as acts of terrorism - Luke, Baader Meinhof is one of the best albums of the last twenty years but it's about as "dangerous" as Basil Fawlty not mentioning the war.
Towards the end, he just seems to be padding, trying to fill up his quota of words. I found the trepanning segment dreary, and the lengthy acid trip just plain tedious.
And so I return to praying for a new Auteurs album...
on 14 February 2009
Luke Haines is a genius. He almost certainly hates you. These two facts are not unrelated. Your only choice is to buy this book and restore balance to the universe. It is as funny, spiteful and true as his records. The prologue is entitled "Is it ever right to strike a dwarf?"; the postcript "as a nation we have truly lost our way". Between these two poles lurks the dark heart of an unsung hero adrift in a lost age. Treasure him now.
on 25 July 2014
If you have a fondness for the Auteurs, first well done, you're quite right; and secondly you should have read this by now. I haven't read many music memoirs, like political and movie memoirs they tread too carefully, those rules don't apply here. Gloves off, hindsight on holiday, Haines takes us through his experiences during the appalling Britpop era. He doesn't mind if he offends a few folk on the way, and he is subjective in the extreme. He doesn't mind admitting to his own shortcomings as well as anyone else's.
Reading my own views of Oasis, Blur, Echobelly as written by someone who had to exist in their orbit while he struggled with his own sanity and creativity (plus his own ill-treated 'Cellist') is a pleasure and entertaining in the extreme. If you're not a fan, you will be after reading this.
on 5 January 2009
In telling of the horror of working on the recording of the pilot of Chris Evans' loathsome "TFI Friday" vanity project, the author muses on the inexplicaple popularity and influence peddled in those days by the self-appointed "Goebbels of Britpop". He offers the resigned conclusion that "..in the Land of the Blind, the Four-Eyed Man is King."
This is a typical moment in a brilliant book, which uses wit, honesty and a fair degree of bile to puncture the most egotistical and truly stupid "movement" the British music industry ever foisted on an ever gullible public - myself included.
As such, "Bad Vibes" provides a very welcome dose of perspective from a truly sharp operator. Haines was to Britpop as Costello was to Punk/New Wave- too smart to ever really buy in. The comparison ends there, however, as it's impossible to see Haines ever mellowing into the kind of blandness that characterises Costello's last two decades.
Certainly not if the evidence of this hilarious book is anything to go by. Hugely recommended.
on 29 December 2008
Luke Haines is accused of being Arrogant, Aloof, Anti-Establishment, Acidic and A Genius. These things all seem true judging by this book.
This is an essential read for all those who want to know what went on with Britpop. To add to his literary skills, every song he has ever written has been better than the britpop-fodder he describes around him
Met him once; nice chap who never wanted the fame but certainly had the talent. Thought by some to be an eternal underachiever or a beautiful loser this book explains what goes on in his brainbox. He's a national treasure. Buy this book