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The (Not So Difficult) Second Album,
This review is from: Now I'm A Cowboy (Audio CD)
Now I know there is an old rock music adage something to the effect that an artist's second album often proves to be a (the?) 'difficult one' (take The Clash, Television and The Stone Roses to name but three - mind you, it can't be easy to follow-up a masterpiece, I guess), but, in the case of Luke Haines' brainchild, The Auteurs, this second effort merely served to dispel the validity of any such theory. Once again, the man of acerbic wit, poetic lyric, haunting melody and acute social commentary broke the rules and delivered an(other) album shot through with pop music genius, further justifying his (then) recently assumed position as (arguably) the most astute musical scribe on the 'English condition' since Ray Davies.
Indeed, I still find it difficult to rank this album, quality-wise, against its predecessor New Wave and I even know of people who think the first two albums were subsequently bettered by 1996's After Murder Park. What is, however, in no doubt (in my mind, at least) is that Now I'm A Cowboy is a stunning record, without a weak moment, and sounding just a fresh (and relevant) today as when Haines penned it nearly two decades ago. In fact, even if you simply took the first two singles from the album, New French Girlfriend, with its the sweeping melody and power chords in Haines' tale of international romantic solace ('Alain, René, Vanessa and me') - the best take on the subject of girlfriends since Jonathan Richman's - and album opener, the vibrant tour-de-force that is Lenny Valentino, you would have the makings of a killer album.
But here, Haines sustains this quality throughout, from the magnum opus feel of his sneering take on upward mobility in The Upper Classes ('You can't come here no more, unless you use the tradesman's door'), the general theme of which he continues to expound upon in Life Classes/Life Model (there's those power chords again), through to the more restrained beauty of songs such as Brainchild, where Haines rails against prized intellectualism, I'm A Rich Man's Toy, an invigoratingly dynamic take on apparent social exploitation, Modern History, a typically scathing Haines epic assault on the illusory nature of fame and, for me best of all, the sublime Underground Movies (the last two of which songs feature James Banbury's outstanding contribution on cello).
Along with other Auteurs albums, New Wave and After Murder Park, an essential album for the collection.