La Haines

Luke Haines: genius. I like writing that because, having met him on a number of occasions, I’m pretty sure he’d hate being called a genius, while secretly thinking, Yes, I am one. He is one. I’m talking about Luke Haines the musician, essentially, whose output from the Auteurs through to Luke Haines, via Black Box Recorder and Baader Meinhof, has been prolific to the point of masochism over the past couple of decades, and inspired not by record company imperatives as much as by an apparently bottomless well of ideas and tunes. But I am here to write about Luke Haines the writer. Luke Haines the author. Luke Haines the chronicler. Luke Haines: historian.

Post Everything is the sequel to his first memoir, Bad Vibes, which I recommend to anyone who thinks they remember Britpop. Not the way Haines remembers it, you don’t, and he was there, in the thick of it – a no doubt uncomfortable participant in the famous Union Jack issue of Select in 1993, photographed in grainy black and white in a deckchair, as I recall, but a player nonetheless.  Scabrous, cynical, self-aware to the point of self-laceration and yet utterly arrogant and invertedly self-aggrandising, albeit viewed through blood-tinted spectacles, Post Everything picks up the story just before Black Box Recorder have a hit, and takes the story up to about 2005, just after the plug has been pulled on Haines’ NT-funded musical about Nicholas van Whatsisface, Property.

The book, out in paperback on July 7 (with its cover sweetly illustrated by someone called Siân, whom we hope is his wife Siân), is bloated with bons mots, acute skewerings (“the Colonel Kurtz of the Curly Wurly Memorial Club, the Shoko Asahara of the Spangles Appreciation Society” – he’s talking about my close personal showbiz friend Stuart Maconie) and sly observations (that John Humphrys so despises “Pop Music” he feels the need to add a question mark to both words when using the phrase on the Today programme: “Pop? Music?”). You will rattle through it, as Haines and co-conspirators seem to constantly defy the falling masonry of an imploding record industry, picking up “demo money” while being shown the door, and having hits when all around are losing their heads.

In among all the bleating and pissing and moaning, Haines actually proves an astute observer of what’s going down, detailing the “digital recording genocide” of the ProTools revolution in the 90s with a clear head and no agenda (“by the early 20th century, every cell-of-one-man band can afford a ProTools set-up … the holy legacy of punk rock? Not quite, sunshine, not quite”). While other writers are driven by the tyranny of balance, or the politics of growth, Haines cuts through the shit. He errs on the side of grumpy, but when your author is falling in love, getting married and having a baby, you know that there beats a soppy heart within, and if anything, it makes you admire his jaundiced stance all the more.

Dropped by a succession of labels both cool and uncool, and hounded out of musical theatre by a succession of “Grahams”, Haines has reason to complain about his lot. But, frankly, he never courted fame, and when it flirts with him, it’s with the same barely disguised disdain as Bono, dragged to meet the author by Danny Goffey of Supergrass, of all people. What a wonderful world.

It all ends a bit abruptly, and there are a couple of “fantasy” sequences involving a cat that might have hit the cutting-room floor and been replaced by proper chapters about stuff that actually happened, but maybe Haines is flexing his fingers to become a novelist. I prefer him as a documentarian. His songs have always been fat with non-fiction, bulging with true stories and post-encyclopaedic knowledge, and his prose flies when it is similarly stoked. Post Everything is worth your while. Although if you haven’t read Bad Vibes, get that first.