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After Murder Park
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2001
Despite sinking commercially upon its release back in 1996, revisits to 'After Murder Park' reveal it to be one of the great forgotten albums of the last ten years. Auteurs lynchpin Luke Haines had sunk to new depths when he came to writing this, his masterpiece; disputes with his record label, personal injury, the misery of life on the road, a growing disgust at the country he lived in. It all came to a head here in a wonderful, claustrophobic, diatribe, a kick back against the sheer averageness of modern life. As is the case with the best artists, Haines transformed his personal anger into universal themes, angry reflections on British society that remind you of Costello, Jam-era Weller, even Morrissey at his most social. It wasn't just the glorious, often deceptive melodies, the Steve Albini induced energy of the delivery that saw Haines reach these new heights - it a real sense of purpose. Of all the BritPop era bands, Haine's songwriting is unique in that he is completely focused upon the external world around him, how it disgusts and amuses him. He is perhaps the only performer of his era who could pen a song as touching, gritty and real as 'Unsolved Child Murder' and get away with it so brilliantly. 'Light Aircraft on Fire' is two minutes of schizophrenia as tuneful pop. 'Dead Sea Navigators' is a bar room rant that never loses its humanity. Ultimately, this is classic indie with guts, Bowie meets Costello, cellos and distorted guitars, lyrically the apoethosis of what middle-class life in 90's Britain is really like - a work of unrivalled greatness.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 26 February 2006
Much darker and more caustic than anything The Auteurs had done before; After Murder Park was the result of an impending breakdown, a year long recuperation period following a jump from a 15ft wall, and Luke Haines's growing dissatisfaction with the kind of indie-guitar pop clogging up the charts circa '95. To some, it represents the truest anti-Britpop statement in record form, with Haines finding little cheer in a world filled with murder, suicide and domestic abuse, and even fantasising about the bombing of the Columbia Hotel, the infamous celebrity flop-house made famous by an Oasis reference!! There are also the usual Haines-related preoccupations with tragic nostalgia, faded-glamour, rock-star-rivalries and the 1970's, all incorporated alongside a continual obsession with child murder, alcoholism and self-destructive relationships.
It's easily the darkest album Haines has been involved with, seemingly lacking the prevailing sense of humour that detracted from the bleak misanthropy of later albums like England Made Me and The Oliver Twist Manifesto. In fact, you could probably view it as the start of a dark trilogy of records, continuing with the Baader Meinhof LP (1997) and the abovementioned England Made Me (1998), both of which maintain a similar preoccupation with terrorism, kidnap, social unrest, suicide and personal angst.
Like much of Haines's work, After Murder Park is set against an almost-kitchen-sink depiction of the world, with his subject matter and choice of delivery creating a unique and very British backdrop for these dark tales of dread. The music goes against this slightly by retreating from the acoustic strum of debut album New Wave and it's more boisterous glam follow up Now I'm A Cowboy to create a bizarre amalgamation of U.S. style noise rock and more traditional British pop (think the Beatles, the Smiths, the aforementioned Kinks, and so on). The switch in sound probably has a lot to do with recording engineer Steve Albini, who brings his trademark sound of punctured drums, distorted guitars and vocals pushed low in the mix that really benefited albums like The Pixies' Surfer Rose and Seamonsters by The Wedding Present. After Murder Park has similarities to both those albums, but also has further elements to make it a little more unique. The spirit of New Wave remains with the appearance of an acoustic guitar on at least five cuts, whilst there are shades of Ziggy-era Bowie and that great caustic Costello classic Blood & Chocolate found on some of the more abrasive tracks.
There's also a shade of Bends-era Radiohead too, with Haines standing as a guitarist easily in the same league as Johnny Greenwood, and this album easily eclipsing The Bends in terms of consistent songwriting, production and performance (in my opinion at least!!). Regardless of influence, it is Haines's unique world view that shines through clearest of all, with his music managing to sound both grungy and grim, but also catchy and filled with pop hooks!! Similarly, his lyrics manage to capture the rose-tinted nostalgia of Ray Davies and the Kinks, but also offer a subversive element, with a more violent and volatile streak that seems to suggest fellow rock curmudgeon Mark E. Smith at his most bitter and twisted. This is obvious right from the start, with the opening track, Light Aircraft On Fire, offering a juxtaposing subject matter, a pile-driving glam/pop/alt-rock rhythm, and those ever-present snarled and sniping vocals. Like all the greatest songwriters, Haines can sing a song about one thing whilst implying something else. So, a song that seems to be very much about a light aircraft on fire takes on various other connotations and interpretations, with most believing the song to be about a volatile and dying relationship.
The rest of the album follows a similar lyrical trajectory, with later songs like Child Brides, Buddha and the storming Married To a Lazy Lover (a song apparently inspired partly by the voyeuristic musical perversion of Costello's classic stalker anthem I Want You) all continuing the idea of damaged relationships, whilst other songs like New Brat In Town, Everything You Say Will Destroy You and Tombstone seem to be taking pot-shots at the Britpop massive and their hollow existence of drug-taking, tabloid-bating, stadium-filling mediocrity. Fear of Flying on the other hand could be interpreted as a fear of failing ("you should be weary of ghosts in the dark / they know all your history they know all your past"), whilst the almost-anthemic Dead Sea Navigators is a tongue-in-cheek celebration of life's great losers ("john the barman, and Mickey Greene, this one goes out to all the drinkers at the Red Lion... overcoat boys with more brains that brawn, this one's for you!!"), which leaves the two most sinister songs as the album's highlights of highlights.
Unsolved Child Murder is the greatest Beatles song never written, with Haines creating a beautiful melody that embraces a burst of Blackbird-style acoustic guitar, a For No One referencing French horn refrain, and a use of cello far greater than that from Eleanor Rigby. The lyrics represent Haines at his absolute best ("People round here / don't like to talk about it / presumed dead / unsolved child murder... / since they dragged the lake / you know they seemed au fait / cordoned off some wood and gave a photo to a psychic / presumed dead / unsolved child murder") creating a rich scenario, an evocative character vignette and a piece of personal reflection simultaneously!!! The title track is very much the follow up to Unsolved Child Murder, once again employing the lush acoustic guitar sound, alongside James Banbury's cello, Alice Readman's double-bass and Barney Rockford's drums.
It's another one of Haines's all-time greatest moment, juxtaposing the horror of the subject matter with a gorgeous pop arrangement and the classic closing refrain; "I'll love you until the end". After Murder Park is really a fantastic album... proof that great work can come out of a period of great personal pain, and further proof (along with New Wave, England Made Me and Oliver Twist) that Luke Haines is one of Britain's most gifted and vital songwriters. A mid-nineties masterpiece, then... that not enough people know about.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2006
How can a songwriter be so extreme, so vengeful, so caustic but oh so right? Everything here rings true because of the unflinching honesty of Mr Haines in his finest hour. A dark but exhilerating album of paranoid mania, suburban frustrations and diabolically brilliant melodies, arrangements, lyrics and soul. I keep coming back to this one again and again and again. Masterpiece. Blur, Oasis, Pulp: they'd be lucky to be given the chance to shine Luke Haines's doorstep.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 April 2014
I was listening again to this 1996 Auteurs album (their third of four) the other day and marvelling not only at Mr Haines creative, lyrical sense, but the sheer simple, sophistication (an oxymoron?) of the man’s songwriting (and 'arrangements’). For example, take the song Buddha – arguably one of the most ‘throwaway’ songs here (though I’m not sure Haines has really ever penned such a beast), but just listen to the sophistication of the sound arrangement here (after some simple strumming), with Haines’ buzzsaw guitar and powerchords, James Banbury’s searing electric cello and Alice Readman’s throbbing ('Hooky style’) bass. Some credit is (I guess) due to legendary producer Steve Albini for his 'recording’ here, but this is really just the 'icing on the cake’ of Haines’ dynamic and melodic sense. And then, over the top (as it were) we have another set of Haines’ darkly poetic (that’s the pervading basis of the album’s themes) lyrics – a tale of another desperately ironic character ('choked on whale bone in a Cantonese restaurant’) presented in that uniquely Hainesian vernacular.

Throughout the album, Haines delves into the increasingly dark side of Britishness (or maybe that should be Englishness), overlaying his tales of war-time shenanigans, urban alienation or (perhaps more modernistic) sexual dysfunction, domestic abuse and infanticide with a kind of mystical, mediaeval folksiness ('.. and the child brides went down to the water ‘) – though the man’s caustic cynicism and sharp irony is never too far below the surface (much of the 'media sensationalistic’ subject matter here being particularly topical).

Song-wise, there’s not really a weak moment, whether it be Haines’ scorching guitar sound on the 'rocking’ opener Light Aircraft On Fire, New Brat In Town, Everything You Say Will Destroy You, (the lament for rock n’ roll, or more specifically Britpop in) Tombstone, or (best of all) the sublime two and a half minutes of pop (acoustic/electric) dynamism (uniquely Auteurs-like) that is Land Lovers. Quite frankly, the band has never sounded better and Mr Albini should also receive some plaudits for the muted understatement on Child Brides, the magnificent Fear of Flying and the closing title song. Top trio for me, though, would be the ironically light (and slight?) Unsolved Child Murder, the mesmerising melody and guitar (à la New French Girlfriend) of Married To A Lazy Lover and the epic Dead Sea Navigators, which actually reads as quite a 'straight story’ (celebratory even) with a few caustic moments ('..our friends, though they were few..’) together with an intoxicating, soaring chorus.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2007
Remember the weird kid at school who nobody liked and who used to tie nooses for his little sister's soft toys? Well, `After Murder Park' could be the soundtrack to his grown-up life.

This album focuses relentlessly on the darker side of life; the obsessions of and with the outsider are laid bare in twelve tracks which combine bilious, impotent rage with tales of twisted desires and deviant behaviour. "Light Aircraft on Fire' almost revels in disaster, its spluttering guitar inferno effectively evokes the stricken plane plummeting to earth; `New Brat In Town' struts around making empty threats whilst `Unsolved Child Murder' and `After Murder Park' squarely places the listener in the world of the suspect not the victim.

So much for the theme of the record - what about the music? Few records I have ever heard can match this one for sheer venom: Haines's vocals snarl and Steve Albini coaxes thrilling, vicious guitars to match the lyrics. Big Black fans will love this stuff. Even the humble Hammond organ is twisted into an instrument of hate on tracks such as `Married to a Lazy Lover' and `Buddha'.

What elevates `After Murder Park' to greatness is the strong melody amongst the noise and also its variety. Songs fall and rise with clever use of a string section to add a wonderfully haunting, melancholic feel. The beauty of the music on the two `murder' tracks is in superb contrast to the black lyrics.

This is intelligent rock music at its very best - challenging, thrilling and more than a little grubby. A true classic.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2002
This is true evil. An album that reeks of insanity, decay and decadence. Hoarse, half whispered vocals, mad distorted guitars and lyrics that makes your back crawl. Luke Haines isn't painting a pretty picture, but he sure paints it with skill, both in vitriolic lyrics and irrestistable tunes.
Black metal never had the ability to shock me or move me, it took a britpopper gone evil to do that.
One of the five best albums of the decade and warmly (or rather coldly) recommended. Even better than Haines Baader-Meinhof project.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2014
This has to be one of my favourite albums ever, for all the reasons the other 5 star reviewers have mentioned.

I must also give special mention to 'Child Brides', one of the most achingly beautiful songs I have ever heard. Wonderful.

But then so is the whole album. Please purchase and cheer up Luke!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
After breaking both ankles on tour in 1994, Luke Haines poured all of his (Considerable) bile and anger into a new collection of songs, and hired Steve Albini to "produce" the record. The result was After Murder Park, one of the nastiest, most visceral and darkest records released by a british band in 1996. It was also one of the most compelling.

Musically, AMP is similar to Now I'm a Cowboy, with the raw and muscular guitars offset with baroque song stylings and cello, but is far rawer musically, and lyrically, this might be of the darkest records of the 1990's. With a song like "unsolved Child Murder", you know this is not going to be a chirpy take on 1960's pop and 70's glam as so many of the Auteurs peers were running into the ground. This is a dark record, with tales of unhappy relationships, murders in resturants, plan crashes and missing persons. AMP predictably made little impression on the charts, and was overlooked by many critics who were singing the praises of "New Wave" three years prior. However, its musically and lyrically as strong as "New Wave", and is further evidence that Luke Haines was one of the best songwriters of his generation.
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1 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2004
This could have been a great album, with different vocal mixing. I cannot understand what is being sung because the guitar track takes front and center. This is one were I would take the bed tracks and adjust the input to the final mix. Darn shame. Same reason Michael Stipe in the early years, and, well, ye olde Pink Floyd pissed me off in there respective early years.
If you want just snarl worlds nobody can hear into your microphone, do not expect anyone to get your point, let alone listen to you singing strong (in Auteurs' case) lyrics.
The mixer should have been shot for thinking a guitar gritch was more important than a clean vocal track that can be heard & understood by Americanos.
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