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I undertake this venture knowing that I don't have the spare time to do it, but feel that these artists NEED TO BE HEARD (please excuse my shouting!). Or is that I think I need to be heard? Or that there are (or have been) some great music blogs that have inspired me to wanna jump on the bandwagon? Probably all of the above??I hope you enjoy the blog. If I turn one person onto these bands that turned me on then it will all have been worth it!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Auteurs - After Murder Park

I tend to remember particular points in my life by my thoughts on who ruled the rock/pop roost at that time. Right now it's the Drive-By Truckers: two classic albums in one year.

1996 was a life changing year for me, and the soundtrack was provided by The Auteurs. In that year they released the After Murder Park album and three 4-track EPs, and wiped the floor with the competition. This era is well documented in the excellent autobiography Bad Vibes: Britpop and my part in it's downfall, by The Auteurs' charismatic vocalist, guitarist and songwriter Luke Haines. Haines provides an entertaining description of the recording of the album with legendary producer Steve Albini, and a song by song discussion of the album that is far more entertaining than what I have managed. I know Haines would react disparagingly to my review, which is fine my me......I welcome being mocked by his genius!

The background to the After Murder Park album is worth describing. While on tour supporting the Now I'm a Cowboy album, Haines was suffering from acute stress and wanted to end the tour. While drunk in San Sebastain, he decided to let destiny dictate whether the tour would continue or not by jumping from a 15 foot wall onto a surface he could not determine. The surface turned out to be concrete, and Haines broke both his ankles upon landing. After five weeks in hospital, where he was told he may never walk again, he was confined to a wheelchair in his basement apartment. He tentatively started writing songs, and the new songs were "ugly and brutal." One of these songs, Unsolved Child Murder, seemed to arrive out of nowhere, and Haines later realised the story was based on a forgotten memory from his childhood where a neighbourhood kid disappeared. This song started a process of "channeling the nightmare bogeymen of 1970's newsreel infamy," producing a batch of songs differing greatly from previous Auteurs material. There was much less emphasis on writing classic pop songs, and typical song structures were conspicuous by their absence.

Haines was quoted around this time as saying Nirvana were the only band he respected. The choice of Albini as producer may well have been due to his work on Nirvana's In Utero, and turned out to be a masterstroke. The sound dynamics and instrumental clarity is amazing. The drums are punchy, and the distorted guitar sound is savage enough to take your head off your shoulders! And the interesting use of (Hammond?) organ, an instrument not typically associated with Albini, adds an important ingredient to the instrumental mix.

The album starts of with Light Aircraft on Fire. Like the rest of the album, there is no excess baggage - 2 minutes 15 seconds and it's all over. And it rocks like a bastard. Child Brides is sparse and subdued, based around strummed guitar, cello and tympani, with the unsettling lyrics providing a fascinating counterpoint.

New brat in town is the first of five great song on the album. It starts with clean guitar and a When the levee breaks type swagger drumbeat, both in style and sound. The instrumentation changes in each verse, and the choruses (if you can call them that) feature a unique distorted organ sound. The lyrics are presumably aimed at the latest Britpop sensation. Unsolved child murder is another sparse and subdued number, based around acoustic guitar and cello.

The next three songs are possibly the best three song combo of the any album from the 1990s. The drum swagger returns for Married to a lazy lover, a tale of domestic violence. The dynamics are amazing, with the instrumentation again changing in each verse. The distorted guitar sound in the second verse and apocalyptic guitar solo have to be heard to be believed - distorted to the point of feedback. Buddha is atmospheric and sinister, moving at funeral pace, with more fantastic dynamics. It starts with organ and vocals, before the drum swagger returns, accompanied by cello and guitar harmonics. Tombstone is another stab at the Britpop brigade, featuring fantastic lyrics: "taking out the garbage at the Columbia hotel", "take the fucking building out, Baader Menihof style",  "like to thank my mother for inventing rock n roll". More great organ sounds in the chorus, and another great guitar solo.

Dead sea navigators is the final great (and probably best) song on the album. It uses the same chords as The Go-betweens The Clarke sisters (deliberate homage?). If the song wasn't so good this similarity may grate, but this is great assimilation, similar to how Oasis used the riff from T. Rex's Get it on in Cigarettes and Alcohol - genius assimilates, mediocrity steal!  Dead sea navigators starts atmospheric and sinister with clean guitar and cello, with organ and drums emerging for the chorus. It again features more great lyrics: "boys with more brain than brawn, this one's for you!" After Murder park is short (1 min 57 sec) and sweet - musically at least. Lyrically it reminds me of The Smiths Suffer Little Children. A song with "album closer" written all over it.

If the After Murder park album wasn't enough, there were also three singles/EPs released either side of the album, featuring six non-album tracks. The Back with the killer EP features the title track, another great rock song, featuring interesting use of theremin. The Light Aircraft on Fire single includes X-Boogie Man, which features only vocals and reverberated low piano keys used as a percussive/rythmic device. This may be the missing link between The Auteurs and Haines' side project Baader Meinhof. The Kids Issue EP was recorded as a Peel session. The title track is yet another great (and sinister) rock song with fantastic dynamics, wound as tight as a spring - apparently written ten minutes before the session. It is also interesting to hear Buddha and After Murder Park in an essentially live format.

After recording the best music of 1996, Haines, ever perverse, split the band! The Auteurs reunited in 1999 for How I Learned to Love the Bootboys, an excellent album lyrically based around rock/pop sub-cultures. Haines also recorded four albums with Black Box Recorder, and five solo albums, including Das Capital, which included orchestrated re-recordings of classic Auteurs songs (including Unsolved Child Murder), along with some new tracks, including instant classics Satan Wants Me and Bugger Bognor. While these albums have maintained Haines' lofty standards, he has yet to eclipse the After Murder Park era.

Let's hope, to (miss)quote Future Generations (from How I Learned to Love the Bootboys and Das Capital) that the next generation gets it from the start!!

The Auteurs - 1996 - After Murder Park

1. Light Aircraft on Fire
2. Child Brides
3. Land Lovers
4. New Brat in Town
5. Everything You Say Will Destroy You
6. Unsolved Child Murder
7. Married to a Lazy Lover
8. Buddha
9. Tombstone
10. Fear of Flying
11. Dead Sea Navigators
12. After Murder Park

FLAC Pt1, Pt2, Pt3

The Auteurs - 1996 - Back with the Killer (EP)

1. Unsolved Child Murder
2. Back with the Killer
3. Former Fan
4. Kenneth Anger's Bad Dream


The Auteurs - 1996 - Light Aircraft on Fire (CDS)

1. Light Aircraft on Fire
2. Buddha (4-track demo)
3. Car Crash
4. X-Boogie Man


The Auteurs - 1996 - Kids Issue (EP)

1. Kids Issue
2. Buddha
3. A new Life a new Family
4. After Murder Park



  1. Nice work! 'Bad Vibes' is one of my favourite Rockbooks. Consider yourself linked to my blog, which probably started a day before yours!

  2. definitely one of the future generation getting it from the start, as i missed em in the 90s as a teen, Haines is a genius