Wednesday, January 31

Cruel Britannia

Jarvis has an excellent solo album out. Damon is going strong with Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad, & The Queen. Brett is gearing up for his first solo album. The Gallagher brothers are...well, I have no idea and I don't much care.

And Luke Haines is popping up in comic books. If you read comics and care at all about Britpop, you should check out Phonogram. I still can't suss out the story, but it's definitely a love letter to the scene. Luke figures prominently in the latest issue, and I'll just leave it at that. The upshot of all this (nostalgia) is that I couldn't understand why I never got into The Auteurs. They're just one of those bands that just passed me by, or I passed them by. I do remember the reviews and praise and have always been aware that their albums are well thought of. I also enjoy Black Box Recorder.

Now that I've listened to New Wave a couple of times I can easily understand how Haines ended up marginalized and tagged as a pop underachiever. The album is stunning, both musically and lyrically. I'm not sure if it's really Britpop, outside of being released during that period. It sounds a bit like Suede I guess; the glam is there, but toned way down. I can't imagine this stuff pumping out of radios along with Oasis and Blur. In retrospect, it feels obvious that New Wave lost the Mercury Prize to Suede's debut. This music is bone dry and more than a little caustic. The melodies are subtle and the hooks subdued; it doesn't want to make easy friends with you.

This has got me thinking about what makes a great debut album. Listening to New Wave it's amazing to think it's someone's debut. It's clear that Haines had a very specific vision for the album, and it sounds like he nailed it completely. I don't know how else to explain it other than to say the album fully realises a unique world with its own mood. I think people latch onto debut records when it feels like the band popped into this world fully formed, seemingly out of nowhere. This is the kind of band fans form mini cults around. The music has its own "thing." That thing is probably a "place" where you go when you listen to the music. If a band can't conjure a place like that, you can enjoy their music, but only ever at a distance.


Michael said...

It doesn't get much better than the opening one-two punch of "Show Girl" & "Bailed Out"...

Bruce said...


Thanks for commenting! I think the album opens and closes amazingly, with tracks 9-11 really ramping up the drama, and then track 12 as a perfect finish. The album really is paced and sequenced well.