Music: The Seventies aren't what they used to be


James McNair
Thursday 15 July 1999 23:02

SUCH IS the vehement anti-nostalgia stance of The Auteurs' latest album, one half-wondered if frontman Luke Haines would be picketing the launch of The Phantom Menace prior to Wednesday night's gig. But if the dark, autobiographical terrain of How I Learned To Love The Bootboys reminds us that the Seventies were about strikes as well as spacehoppers, at times Haines seems to be having his cake and eating it.

The album was recorded at RAK studios - once frequented by Mud and Suzi Quatro - and it's littered with references to Seventies pop. "The Rubettes" speaks for itself, but it's only after several listens you notice "Some Changes" borrows a Hammond organ motif from Bob Marley's "Is This Love".

None of this detracts from the fact that Haines is a brilliant lyricist, and Bootboys a fascinating, many-layered record. He probably wouldn't appreciate it, but his frank portrayal of the Home Counties as grappling still with the psychological ramifications of the Second World War begs comparison. Despite those indie credentials, Haines is the natural successor to Pink Floyd's Roger Waters.

The gig was sold out. Initially, Haines and cellist James Banbury took the stage alone. They opened with "Future Generation", Haines fixing one eye on his own posterity as he sang "The next generation will get it from the start". Casting himself as Lazarus and name-checking his own New Wave and After Murder Park albums, his message was clear. Haines believes his music will outlive him.

As far as his audience were concerned, it was no vain boast. There were people here tonight for whom The Auteurs still mean a great deal; couples who first snogged to "Unsolved Child Murder", grown men shouting for "Lenny Valentino". Three or four songs in, Haines met their applause with little affirmative nods. Had there been a thought-bubble above him, it might have read: "Thank you for acknowledging my genius."

Much of the set was drawn from the new album. Frenetic and belligerent, "Your Gang, Our Gang", came on like an ugly counter-blast to Gary's glitter- speckled take on Seventies gang culture. One of Haines most potent apercus, though, came in "Some Changes". "Whatever happened to the weather of our youth?" he asked as the song reached its coda. The answer, of course, is "nothing". The summers were not any better in the Seventies, and, therefore, Haines' line captures the myopia of nostalgia perfectly.

Throughout the performance, drummer Barney Rockford was positioned stage- right to accommodate an alarmingly real-looking guillotine which stood ominously behind Haines. Alice Cooper would have incorporated this prop, but Haines ignored it, preferring it to stand as a metaphor for... who knows what.

Had the writers of Days Like These been in the audience, I suspect he would have been less figurative.

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