Disc one covers The Auteurs' first three albums from 1993-1996, drawing heavily on debut New Wave, chucking in the lead track from the Back With The Killer EP and, inexplicably, two remixes from The Auteurs vs Mu-Ziq. (Haines claims to hate the reworkings. They're actually alright). Disc two runs from 1996-2003, bookended with four Baader Meinhof songs but with just 'The Rubettes' to represent The Auteurs' last album How I Learned to Love the Bootboys. You can quibble about omissions (no 'Early Years', 'After Murder Park', '1967', 'Future Generation' or 'Never Work'), but the two-disc split definitely works.
The first disc may straddle the rickety indiepop of the late '80s and early '90s with the aggressive bravado of what was to follow, but the wit and bile of Haines's lyrics, contribution of The Cellist (James Banbury) and defiantly old-school approach to songwriting make it completely distinct from either. Disc two is the quirkier, mainly made up of Haines's post-Auteurs exertions. The missing chapter is Haines's last three, non-EMI records from 2006-2011, but hey, you can't have everything.
On stage, Haines has probably stripped back every track here to either in-your-face power rock or acoustic troubadouring, but it's never one-note on record. From the strummy slacker rebellion of 'Valet Parking' to the heavy glam clatter of 'Back With The Killer' and 'Light Aircraft On Fire', Haines and co were a constantly moving target. Baader Meinhof is remembered more for the wilfully tasteless attention-seeking of a terrorism concept album than the tunes, but the sparse rhythms and strings of the title track and 'There's Gonna Be An Accident' more than survive the wreckage.
Over both discs, and especially the second, Haines's lyrical twists and turns are what make his work always stand out. 'Death Of Sarah Lucas' is art criticism as pure, deserved, sarcasm and spite ("She's playing with morality / She's using ambiguity/ She's using humour to question our preconceptions"). 'Unsolved Child Murder' pulls you into Home Counties misery ("More hate mail through the door / Didn't know that Sundays could be useful after all"), while 'Oliver Twist' flips you into the capital ("Swooping down like the Hun / Over the gas-lit streets of London"). Loads of songs try to tackle death as the Big Farewell, but 'What Happens When We Die' wrestles with its horrible mundanity ("The silent majority? Spare parts for surgery?").
Only on two moments does the spectre of Britpop that was to haunt England (and Haines) actually rear its head - the Suedey-slow motion guitar solo on 'New French Girlfriend' and the occasional Noel Gallagher-esque guitar squall on 'Tombstone'. Apart from that, what you get is some of the most individual and brilliant music from a decade spent on the sort-of-fringes of English pop.
Tracks to download: 'Valet Parking, 'Back With The Killer Again', 'Subculture', 'Baader Meinhof', 'England, Scotland & Wales', 'Death Of Sarah Lucas'
If you like this, you'll like: The Indelicates, Suede, Black Box Recorder
Watch The Auteurs' 'Lenny Valentino' music video below: