February 22, 2018 The Auteurs – New Wave Turns 25
Despite the misgivings and refusal of this English band’s leader/vocalist, The Auteurs is regarded as among the troop of Britpop bands that made the mid-’90s Pop/Rock scene exciting and vibrant via one of its most popular singles, “Lenny Valentino,” from its second album, 1994’s Now I’m a Cowboy.
However, the Alternative/Indie music radar started to detect The Auteurs’ music as early as 1993, when Luke Haines (vocals, guitar, piano) and the rest of the band – Alice Readman (bass) and Glenn Collins (drums) – released their first single, “Show Girl,” which the influential British music magazine Melody Maker championed. Unfortunately, The Auteurs had long disbanded, in 1999. Before that, they were able to release a couple more albums – 1996’s After Murder Park and 1999’s How I Learned to Love the Bootboys. In remembrance of all these, revisit the band’s music, aptly starting with the first, New Wave, which turns 25 this month.
Released on Monday, February 22, 1993 on Hut Records, New Wave was titled as such perhaps in tribute to (or maybe in derogation of, considering Haines’ penchant for sarcasm) one of the genres that dominated the preceding decade. Whichever the case may be, it does not really matter now. After all, the music that The Auteurs had woven remains, ironically, a worthy part of Britpop and, by extension, the entire spectrum of New Wave music.
Shortlisted for the 1993 Mercury Prize and included in the 2005 book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, New Wave opened with “Show Girl,” the single that brought The Auteurs to the attention of Melody Maker. After this Cabaret Punk-inspired opener that had the faint mischief of Half Man Half Biscuit (“All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit”) and The Dead Milkmen (“Rocketship”), the ensuing “Bailed Out” swung and swayed like a chandelier of subtle melodies. “American Guitars” then followed in the same rhythm and melodic predisposition, albeit a bit syncopated and a tad fuzzier.
The starry-bright, piano-led “Junk Shop Clothes” was a change of vibes – mesmerizing, relaxing, as if a New Romantic lullaby. Then there was the upbeat stomper “Don’t Trust the Stars,” which took the listener back to rockin’ mode, only to slow down again with another sparkling ballad, “Starstruck.”
The Auteurs then seemingly shoved the listener towards the edge of the deep-green cliff with the bittersweet angularity of “How Could I Be Wrong?,” predating the similarly sounding and angst-ridden “Heart-Shaped Box” of Nirvana. Followed next were the catchiest and poppiest highlights of the album, the four-on-the-floor beat of “Housebreaker” and the choppy “Valet Parking.”
With “Idiot Brother,” Haines and his co-auteurs turned a bit wiry and metallic, yet still maintaining the album’s overall New Wave sensibilities. “Earliest Years” ensued in the same blend of tunefulness and Noise Rock tendencies. Finally, The Auteurs ended New Wave with the semi-acoustic, Alternative Country–Britpop combo “Home Again”/“Subculture (They Can’t Find Him).”
Many of those who once hailed it and then jumped off ship just because two of its default forerunners – Blur (“Charmless Man”) and Oasis (“Don’t Look Back in Anger”) – said so once upon a time, continue to slag off ’90s Britpop for its apparent excesses. However, looking at it in a musical perspective, the genre that was equally flamboyant as (if not more flaunting than) the previous decade’s New Wave has also produced countless bands that remain active to this day, as well as landmark albums that deserve homage, reassessment, and an attentive replay. The Auteurs’ New Wave is definitely one of them – long been a classic at 25, yet still sounding fresh, new, and subversive.