THE AUTEURS After Murder Park (Hut)

There’s some debate as to whether The Auteurs will have ceased to exist by the time you read this, but if the predictions become true "After Murder Park" is a chillingly fine swansong: crammed to the gills with songs about what’s turning into 1996’s hippest lyrical preoccupation (see Nick Cave’s "Murder Ballads" and The Afghan Whigs’ "Black Love" for further details), "After Murder Park" has to be the best example of sweet jangly music framing acid-sour words since The Smith’s chillingly fine swansong "Strangeways, Here We Come". Luke Haines sings about child murders and aviation disasters, with more than a modicum of Morrissey’s fey detachment circa "Girlfriend In A Coma", over Byrdsian guitars and a moody string section. Not everybody’s cup of tea, as even dedicated Auteurs fans seem to find it hard going, but as an extreme and desperate final statement the tension in tracks like "Child Bride" and "Married To A Lazy Lover" evokes a tiny amount of the unhinged, fractured sensation that haunts albums like Big Star’s "Third/Sister Lovers" or Neil Young’s "Tonight’s The Night", albeit with those albums’ almost unbearably personal element replaced by a series of fictional casebook vignettes: "After Murder Park" is only palatable if you treat it as a reaction to, rather than a reflection of, real life. "I wanted glamour, not tragic rock ‘n’ roll", groans Haines in "Tombstone", and suddenly "After Murder Park" seems more honest than a stadium-ful of Smashing Pumpkins/Radiohead complaint-rock.

THE AUTEURS How I Learned To Love The Bootboys (Hut)

In the three long years since the last Auteurs album, the ever-vitriolic Luke Haines has brought us Baader Meinhof and their dreadful eponymous concept work about political terrorism and, more recently, the mighty Black Box Recorder long player "England Made Me", all nasty lyrics sweetly sung by Sarah Nixey and tunefully accompanied by Haines and a former member of The Jesus And Mary Chain. Now, with the slightly bizarre spectre of the reformed Auteurs and Black Box Recorder vying for space on the same stages during this summer's glut of festivals, the fourth Auteurs album, "How I Learned To Love The Bootboys" is with us. Any good?
Yes, but a qualified yes. The first thing to note is that the music contained herein is possibly some of the least inspired of The Auteurs career - first single "The Rubettes" rifles many of its notes from that band's "Sugar Baby Love", which is fine as a pointedly-observed hatcheting of the pervading nostalgic trend that has suffocated British music over the last few years, but less fine as something to listen to. On the other hand, the lyrics are some of the best Haines has yet penned - which, given the competition offered by the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder back catalogues, means that they're strong stuff.

"1967" is one of the lyric sheet's many highlights, which you could read as a savage verbal battering of Haines' parents: "In 1967, no pop in our record collection/The Beatles and the Stones mean nothing to us…In 1967 my wife's expecting/A Surrey midwife delivers the child". Luke Haines was born in 1967 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey - draw your own conclusions. "Future Generation" finds Haines in self-mythologising mode, predicting future greatness: "And of course I love the old songs/From New Wave to Murder Park/The next generation/Will get it from the start". But the predominating theme of the album is the spearing of false nostalgia and pop-culture, a backbone that runs right through, from the key trigger references that pepper the tracks - Biker '73 sew-on patches, Big Youth records, Ford Zephyrs - to the pronouncement on the final track "I put a pox upon the seventies".

Lyrically terrific, musically less so, "How I Learned To Love The Bootboys" nevertheless packs in enough chilling moments - for example Haines' creepy "How does the magic move around you?" refrain on "The South Will Rise Again" - to elevate it far above the disaster area that was the Baader Meinhof album. It may be their least wonderful work yet, but it's still worthy of both their and your time and trouble.

Baader Meinhof

Black Box Recorder

Luke Haines