on 21 August 2005
Luke Haines Is Dead is a brilliant three-CD set comprising of various archived or unreleased material that covers the majority of Haines' career post-The Servants, through his work with The Auteurs and under the name Baader Meinhoff, as well as music released under his own name on records like The Oliver Twist Manifesto and Das Capital. As the other commentator pointed out, there's some material missing from his work, with The Servants, Black Box Recorder and the Auteurs vs. U-ziq remix project all absent here, though it's hardly a problem at the end of the day, with this collection still finding the time to include 63-tracks worth of b-sides, out-takes, session versions, remixes and choice singles, all taken from great albums like New Wave, Baader Meinhoff, and The Oliver Twist Manifesto.
It couldn't have come at a better time... with the current shift in the musical climate moving more towards the kind of British indie-guitar bands that emerged in the early-to-mid 1990's. The Auteurs are still one of the best bands to emerge from that whole scene, releasing their first album New Wave around the same time as Radiohead's Pablo Honey and managing to pre-date the kind of music recorded by Blur on albums like Modern Life Is Rubbish and The Great Escape. As a work of indie-rock perfection there's really no contest between New Wave and albums like Modern Life... or Pulp's His N' Hers, both of which seem indebted to the overall style and lyrical ideology of The Auteurs, circa '93... with the first three Auteurs' albums far surpassing the work of over-rated contemporaries like Suede and the Manic Street Preachers. The songs from the New Wave era are found on disk one, and include alternative versions of classics like Bailed Out, Junk-Shop Clothes, Housebreaker, How Could I Be Wrong, Valet Parking, et al... there's also live versions of Starstruck and Home Again, as well as unreleased tracks and b-sides like Government Bookstore, Wedding Day, High Diving Horses and the brilliant Subculture (the latter also found as a Hidden Track at the very end of New Wave).
The last few tracks of disk one and the first half of disc two cover the era of The Auteurs' second album, the underrated Now I'm A Cowboy, which covers the same lyrical territory as Pulp's 1995 album Different Class, only with a more 70's "glam-rock" feel. In the past, Haines has referred to this album as being a bit derivative of New Wave and a bit too desperate for success, though for me, there's really no arguing with tracks like I'm A Rich Man's Toy, A Sister Like You, New French Girlfriend and, one of my all time favourites, Underground Movies.
As great as the tracks from Now I'm A Cowboy are, the collection takes a turn for the sinister with the next few tracks, culled from the era between 1995-1996 when Haines was in a pretty dark place (commercial failure, relationship difficulties, two-broken legs and hospitalisation), leading to an album like After Murder Park and the Back With The Killer E.P. After Murder Park is one of those underrated masterpieces that really should garner more attention from the likes of Q and the NME, with Haines, the Auteurs and Steve Albini venturing off into an evil world of suicide, alcoholism, child-murder and terrorism. The sound was a lot more abrasive, with distorted guitars replacing the acoustic strum of New Wave (and clearly demonstrating Haines' desire for constant progression) and snarled vocals dragging us through aggravated classics like Light Aircraft On Fire (the first Auteurs' song I ever head, largely because of the Chris Cunningham directed video), Tombstone, and New Brat In Town. Alongside these angular-joys there are also two lovely little songs that seem to hark-back to the sound of New Wave, with the almost Beatlesque-pop of Unsolved Child Murder - with it's Revolver-like French horns - and the pastoral title-track, with it's wilting string section and subtly menacing lyrics ("hi, hello, where have you been... god it's good to hear your voice again, do you miss your brother... darling I will always love you... lying in a shallow grave, there's a church near by and a railway... on a bed of mud and wires, Esme find out where the child is buried...") and haunting refrain... "I'll love you, until the end".
Other standouts from this era include the even-more abrasive Back With The Killer Again, Former Fan, Kenneth Anger's Bad Dream, A New Life (A New Family) and my personal favourite of the moment, Car Crash ("Tuesday... aliens landed in the desert and on Thursday, somebody got murdered..."). Disk three picks up with Haines' 1997 side-project Baader Meinhoff, featuring more songs about death, politics and 70's terrorism. The musical arrangements here are much more progressive than anything by The Auteurs, with eastern influenced strings, fuzzy guitars and tablas. We then get some alternate versions of the best songs from the final Auteurs album, How I Learned To Love The Boot Boys, which saw the sound of The Auteurs blurring with that of his other band, Black Box Recorder.
There's also some unreleased gems from the same era, like Get Wrecked At Home, Couple Dancing and How To Hate The Working Classes, which bridge the gap between the sound of New Wave and the direction Haines would take with the Christy Malry soundtrack and Oliver Twist... This disk brings the collection to a close with some songs from the orchestral Das Capital collection, with Satan Wants Me, The Mitford Sisters and Bugger Bognor, which offer further proof that Haines is perhaps the greatest British songwriter of the last fifteen years.