Das Capital - the songwriting genius of Luke Haines and The Auteurs
The sublime talents of Luke Haines are to be collected together for the first time this summer with the release of the Luke Haines and The Auteurs retrospective entitled Das Capital. Haines, of course, sprang to prominence in 1992 with his band The Auteurs and the Mercury-nominated New Wave, inadvertently kicking off Britpop in the process. New Wave is heavily represented on Das Capital as are his three other records with The Auteurs and there is also material from one of his two solo records released in 2001 (Christie Malry's Own Double Entry) as well as his mid-'90s incarnation as the extraordinary Baader Meinhof. There is, however, one startling addition to the collection - Haines, who incidentally studied music at the London College of Music, has completely re-recorded the songs on Das Capital using an orchestra. The results are simply breathtaking. Already that fountain of knowledge Q magazine has lavished the album with a 4* review, saying "Haines has been responsible for some of the last decades finest albums...[Das Capital] is a priceless public service".
The full tracklisting for Das Capital looks like this:
How Could I Be Wrong; Showgirl; Baader Meinhof; Lenny Valentino; Starstruck; Satan Wants Me; Unsolved Child Murder; Junk Shop Clothes; Michael Powell; Bugger Bognor; Future Generation.
Haines aficionados and, indeed, fact-fiends in general, might notice that Haines has penned and recorded three new tracks - Satan Wants Me, Michael Powell and Bugger Bognor - for this collection; but they might also like to note that the collection contains a hidden track which can only be accessed by pressing 'Play' and then 'Rewind' once the first track is under way. On doing so they will stumble across a beautiful medley of the acclaimed Back With The Killer Again, The Rubettes (from How I Learned To Love The Bootboys), Housebreaker (from New Wave), Tombstone (from After Murder Park), Buddha (also from After Murder Park), the single Kids Issue, Light Aircraft On Fire and Upper Classes (both from Now I'm A Cowboy) and Discomania (from Christie Malry's Own Double Entry).
Das Capital kicks off with How Could I Be Wrong (from New Wave or 'my first masterpiece' as Haines refers to it) which immediately showcases Haines' obsession with faded glory and 'stars' in general. 'My last years as an actor' is pretty straight-forward Sunset Boulevard stuff really (something Haines has recently revisited with the artwork for Black Box Recorder's Passionoia), but the breathily-intoned 'the stars are brighter/ are lighter/than they have been for years' is surely cleverer still, a barbed comment on the growth of celebrity culture in general and the vacuity of the (then) much-hyped Britpop in particular. Showgirl, which follows, is a bitterer pill yet ('Got myself a showgirl bride/Don't you recognise us') and was the Auteurs' debut single in 1992. If you recall, this song had the audacity to stop dead in its tracks after a mere ten seconds of its existence (that's confidence for you) before starting up again, 'sprinkling stardust' in its tracks. Then it's Baader Meinhof by, er, Baader Meinhof, where Luke had a dream that 'every dog has its day'. This song is even more relevant now than it was then and twice as contemporary - and, no, they don't mean the same thing. To prove this you should be aware that Lenny Valentino is probably even now being re-recorded by a teenage punk band from a suburb in Moscow.
Starstruck (see what I mean about stars) is stunning, particularly now with its violin treatment. Here Haines does that thing he does so well - he keeps changing his own standing and significance within the confines of the song: He may have been starstruck all his life and even 'struck dumb by you' but over the years something's gone terribly wrong and he's finally, sinisterly 'stuck here with you'. This is a Glori(a)ous Swanson(g) indeed (sorry) and might lead you to imagine something awful is about to happen. Fret ye not however, because it's not as if the next song conjures up images of Kenneth Anger and the Devil Riding Out amongst the Sussex Downs. Satan Wants Me (for it is he) is an A-Z of the occult and was inspired by Robert Irwin's book of the same name and written as the theme tune for an as-yet unmade film based on the novel.
Unsolved Child Murder (from After Murder Park) arrives as Track 7 and is as cheery as ever. No matter though, it still manages to be more than a little heartfelt and contains one of the greatest lines ever written about the practicalities of dealing with life as a murderer in your local community - 'More hate mail through the door/didn't know that Sundays could be useful after all'. And again Haines shifts his perspective beautifully from the perpetrator of the crime to the parents of the victim. After this comes Junk Shop Clothes which preceded the so-called low rent chic of Haines' (subsequent) contemporaries in Suede and Pulp. It's a withering social comment in any case, musically pitched somewhere between Al Stewart and Jonathan Richman and surely a precursor to the conceptual masterpiece that was 2001's The Oliver Twist Manifesto.
Haines provides two more new songs for Das Capital. The first (thematically the closest thing here to BBR) he refers to as The Mitford Sisters in his liner notes but is infact called Michael Powell (well, what does he know) and you can't really put it better than he does when he says this is 'a brand new anthem for the hostalgia boom - hostility to the idea of the past'. The second, entitled Bugger Bognor is very special indeed and could just as easily have been written by Betjamin or Larkin (dreadful singers, both) contemplating their own watery, pebble-dashed graves. These two set up the album's closer, the extraordinary Future Generation (off How I Learned To Love The Bootboys) which - and I don't care what the history books say - is one of the greatest songs ever recorded - and something Lou Reed would sell his mother for - just to get a chance to play guitar on.
Luke Haines & The Auteurs release Das Capital on Hut Recordings on July 21st 2003. Luke together with an orchestra will be performing Das Capital live in London during the same month. It is a very good record indeed.