Some bands will never be famous. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but everything from timing to luck to sheer talent has a hand in whether some songs break through the popular consciousnesses’ blood-brain barrier into full mainstream acceptance.
Yet some artists don’t seem to care that much about success. Some may be genre purists who want to avoid selling out, while others find joy in self-sabotaging themselves (ask Canada’s Broken Social Scene why the fast version of “Major Label Debut” didn’t make their sophomore album). Perhaps it’s self-doubt, bitterness, or desire to play the role of the jester in the pop music courts, but whatever the underlying reason is, some people are just allergic to success.
Luke Haines‘ the Auteurs have always been in the running as one of the most underrated bands in history, as Haines’ plainspoken vocals and dry-to-the-point-of-acidic lyrics garnered a cult following, even when he marries his dark sentiments to outright pop choruses. Often dismissed as Britpop also-rans (Haines chuffed at any mention of or association with the 1990s run of “Britpop”), they were the favorite band of many people’s favorite groups, namedropped and often covered even as chart success and smash singles often alluded them. Given Haines’ early band, the Servants also didn’t break; the bitter streak that runs through Haines’ lyrics is very understandable.
People ‘Round Here Don’t Like to Talk About It is an all-encompassing box-set that rounds up Haines’ significant EMI recordings but with some major caveats instilled. Back in 2014, Haines’ major works were given the deluxe reissue treatment, rounding up the Auteurs’ acclaimed debut New Wave (initially released in 1993), their debated follow-up Now I’m a Cowboy (1994), the Steve Albini-produced epic After Murder Park (1996), the final album How I Learned to Love the Bootboys (1999) along with Haines’ electro side-project Baader Meinhof (1996) and the orchestral Auteurs cover album Das Capital from 2002. The 2014 re-releases were all individual and done by the Cherry Red Records reissue sublabel 3Loop Music.
Yet while all of those records were individually paired with demos, rarities, radio sessions, and live shows, People ‘Round Here rounds up all of those re-releases and chops off the radio sessions and live shows completely, repackaging the same bonus material as before but now altogether into a single box set.
While it’s unclear why the live sets and the John Peel sessions were all excised for this 2023 re-release, the logical sense is that even Auteurs fans may only have the four key studio albums, skipping over Baader Meinhof and Das Capital entirely. By bundling these albums together, there is a complete story of Haines’ critical era. Yet strangely, Haines’ beloved record of remixes, 1994’s The Auteurs vs. µ-Ziq, remains conspicuously absent despite also originally coming out on Hut Records, which housed all of the other Auterus material.
There’s still a generous amount of repeated material on these deluxe editions, often in the form of demos, acoustic renditions, remixes, or “alternative mixes.” The self-titled anthem “Baader Meinhof” from Haines’ side-project sees four performances in this box set (original version, “Alternative Version”, a “Confrontation Remix”, and the string-laden Das Capital version), the same fate of which is given to the Auteurs’ most famous song, “Lenny Valentino”. Other tracks see as many as three different renditions, but for completionists, hearing further iterations via John Peel sessions would’ve been a sweet touch, given these were already on those 2014 runs.
As for the music itself, it isn’t easy to articulate anything new beyond what Maria Shurr did back in 2014 when she reviewed those reissues for PopMatters and combed through the context of every LP with precision. While the Bootboys reissue contained the band’s final concert in full, we at least are lucky to be left with Haines’ varied and specific musical vision, where fame is a cruel mistress, and perhaps the encroachment of demonic forces is what Haines’ song narrators so often deserve.
In Schurr’s original review, she describes the Auteurs as being the full-stop, most underrated band of the 1990s, as Haines’ dark worldview was often married to melodies that you could hum on first listen, going as far as to say that “whimsy has never sounded so perverse.” Hearing some of these recordings over three decades after their original release, it’s surprising, and surprisingly reassuring, to hear how little of Haines’ bite is still there. They may never be the world’s most famous band, but hearing Haines tell it is the point.