BLACK BOX RECORDER
The UK election of 97 felt like I was really taking part in a bit of history,
sitting up all night, watching the results come & the hideous conservative majority
that has been in control for my adult life being resoundingly squashed like a
particularly nasty, self satisfied & corrupt bug. So many people turning round
& saying enough is enough & wanting change, however slight it might be. The next
day everyone just seemed to be walking round elated like for once we'd actually
contributed to something.
While all this was going on Luke Haines, of The Auteurs criminally ignored & owner
of the blackest humour in pop, decided in his words that he'd had enough of hearing
his own voice. So after joined up with John Moore, ex Jesus & Mary Chain drummer,
to provide multi-instrumental back-up & Sarah Nixey on vocals.
The fruits of these labours are Black Box Recorder, named by John, & the wonderful
album "England Made Me" 11 snapshots of downbeat beauty with lyrics & themes that
could only have come from the pen & mind of the man who wrote "Unsolved Child
Murder" & "Light Aircraft On Fire" & wondered why The Auteurs have yet to appear
on Top Of The Pops. Basically Haines' commentary on England's grey & not so pleasant
land, the cover was originally going to feature a photo of 1936 England football
team lined up Nazi saluting Hitler but now has the far funnier shot of a coal
miner fresh out of the pit looking aghast & what could well be another miner judging
by his build in full 1970's glam rock clothes & make-up.
The songs within? Well it suddenly hit me today while humming along to "Kidnapping
An Heiress" Black Box Recorder could be the Velvet Underground of the 90's! The
whole album has the aching spaces & simple melodies of the first Velvets album
& the vocals dominating with the kind of icy coolness Nico managed on that album
so every word sinks into you. John Moore is definitely the John Cale figure providing
wobbly background noises including apparently fine bow saw solos & simple percussion
again harking back to "Sunday Morning" etc. Then on top of this is Haines' obviously
the band's Lou Reed providing bleak, harrowing lyrics hiding humour with a wry
edge & a miserable streak Laughing Lou could never top.
Plus Luke Haines doesn't look like a chimp.
Highlights would be the two so far released singles, "England Made Me", & especially
the stunning "Child Psychology" spoken verses written from the perspective of
spoilt, problem schoolgirl who "stopped talking when I was six years old, I didn't
want anything more to do with the outside world" and the chorus of "Life is unfair,
kill yourself or get over it" sung in such a resigned but sweet manner you can't
help but grin at it. All this & a video featuring a small girl submerging herself
in the bath, only Haines could be surprised it wasn't a hit. This single featured
a bizarre cover of "Seasons In The Sun" but topping even that is the albums unique
take on "Uptown Top Ranking" if you never in your wildest dreams thought you could
merge pop reggae & Portishead then you're in for a pleasant surprise.
Probably destined to be raved about, treasured by a handful & ignored by the majority
if you ever want a break from being happy bunnies this would be the perfect soundtrack.
Now released in the US by those lovely people at Jetset you get all of the above
PLUS the UK B-sides so four more stunning excursions into England's dark side.
This includes another wonderful cover version in the shape of "Seasons In The
Sun". So no more excuses about high import prices you have no reason NOT to buy
For more information visit the Jetset web site at: