The Auteurs: Live in Paris

AS LUKE Haines builds up an ever-expanding oeuvre, replete with cross-references and self-mythologising manifestos, one wonders what the French might make of this superficially haughty (but deep down, impassioned) auteur. Well, they stare at him.

They do not rock out. That wouldn’t be easy: Auteurs songs carry no fat, So sparse and shrewd have Luke’s compositions now become that every note counts, nothing breaks much over three minutes, and every song’s a honed miniature, a novella. So it’s with admiration, rather than sweat, that one realises this band will always be too precise and pernickety for mass consumption, too smart and sussed to neglect.

Politics, religion, education and nice-but-jagged chords, With habitual perversity, the group play relatively little from their fine recent album. How I Learned To Love The Bootboys, preferring to interweave themes and gripes from earlier works. So we get ‘Baader Meinhof No 1’ and ‘Baader Meinhof No 2’, sneered out by a bristling, blond Luke with reptilian venom. We get “the best song you’re gonna hear all night” in ‘Unsolved Child Murder’, plus ‘After Murder Park’ and both ‘Light Aircraft’ and ‘Airport’. Obviously Luke’s running with some kind of Auteurs theme park in his head. The word “Lazarus” pops up in at least three songs. It won’t lie down.

So it’s a compelling, tense night, resolutely unfestive. There’s even some wilful misinformation, as Luke tells us a song is “for Tracey Emin, who’s just won the Turner Prize, which no one here cares about except me, But she is my future wife”. I believe him until I see a paper the next day. She didn’t win. As for the marriage idea, however, I’d be hard pushed to think of a better matched couple.

‘The Rubettes’ and ‘Your Gang Our Gang’ lighten the mood briefly. As he sings, “Weren’t the Nineties great?”, Luke nods meaningfully. He’s being sincere. This is one complex, often perplexing writer. It’s in ‘Future Generation’ that his real motivation seeps through. Posterity, he feels, will appreciate his vision best, will “catch his falling star”. Anyone who namechecks their own albums in such a song is evidently quite serious. Dark humour prevails on the closing ‘Lenny Valentino’, as close to rush-of-blood-to-the-head rock as The Auteurs are willing to go. Their determination to put brains before ballistics is highly honourable in a dumbed-down era. But then you recall Luke’s avowed love of the Nineties, and it’s all very confusing again. A band that makes you think about stuff? Today? It’s like finding a juggling camel in your fridge.

Paris strokes its beard. You have to support The Auteurs’ spleen and ideals.

© Chris RobertsUncut, February 2000

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