16 November 2005

Overlooked Albums from the 90's - #6

New Wave by The Auteurs:

I mentioned before that I was a bit of an obsessed Smiths/Morrissey/British music fan in high school. Given that this was the case, I spent a lot of shopping time searching for British music magazines with which to stay current and in the know - searching for 'the next Smiths'. Now, not to sound too much like an old man, but this was indeed before I had internet access and thus magazines like Q and Select were how I'd learn about bands from the U.K. in those dark ages. One issue in particular became somewhat of a roadmap for my listening at the time.

According to some, the April 1993 issue of Select gave birth to Brit-pop. It featured Brett Anderson from Suede on the cover and also mentioned Saint Etienne, Denim, Pulp and The Auteurs (link to singer Luke Haines' "current" site). I remember very well picking up that issue when it came out at my local Bookstar bookstore and I proceeded to try and find as much of the music talked about in that magazine as I could. Suede and Pulp fast became my two favorite bands of the 90's, Saint Etienne served often as background music for gatherings/parties, Denim never quite lived up to the legacy of Lawrence Hayward's first band, and then there's The Auteurs. As much as I loved and listened to their first two albums, this band just kind of got lost in the fray and has been much overlooked by most people, including myself. Listening to New Wave now it's quite interesting to see how it has aged considerably better than most albums released by the other bands (in the early to mid 90's) on that cover of Select (except Pulp's His 'n' Hers of course).

AllMusic says:

While Brit-pop was still finding its feet and the mark from which to take its bow, Luke Haines' subversively smiley Auteurs were already there, effectively writing a how-to guide that would become the genre's white heat beat for nearly half a decade. Their 1993 debut, New Wave, was a glorious combination of snappy beats, sexy guitar, and retro vocals which sounded as much like the Beatles shot through the Pet Shop Boys as anything else. Little that had come before sounded even half as invigorating as this, but thanks to the Auteurs, almost everything that came after followed the blueprint page by page. Even better, the whole package was a sonic masquerade that cradled a remarkable intelligence and even more perverse wit. From the opening "Show Girl," which sets the scene, to the hazy, paisley thrift store morality epic "Junk Shop Clothes," the band set itself firmly apart from most of the slathering up-and-comers. "Starstruck" drops one fey line after another as it threatens to reignite the forgotten glam era across both guitar and vocals, a process that's repeated, albeit with a little more menace (and cello), on "How Could I Be Wrong." That just leaves the biting punch of "Early Years" to pipe the band down the road to superstardom. Except it didn't. As is so often the fate of true pioneers, the Auteurs were inexplicably shunted aside by the U.K. press in favor of sundry others' simpler sounds while the U.S. relegated these leaders to followers -- assuming it even heard the band at all. It's a sin, and a shame, but one that wasn't without a silver lining, as the Auteurs were ultimately able to follow their creative heart, bypassing the corporate marketing chart completely.

Sample the songs from New Wave on Amazon here - sadly I can't find any MP3s online for download and my attempt to use Megaupload to share a song resulted in a crash which forced me to re-write this entire post. Boo hoo.

1st "Overlooked Album from the 90's" here
2nd "Overlooked Album from the 90's" here
3rd "Overlooked Album from the 90's" here
4th "Overlooked Album from the 90's" here
5th "Overlooked Album from the 90's" here

if you'd like...
Pitchfork's top albums of the 90's
1st version of their list