After the relative failure of Now I’m A Cowboy, and the irrepressible surge of Britpop, it’s tempting to describe After Murder Park as more of the same, only more so. In order to understand what’s going on in After Murder Park all you really need to know is that it includes a song called “Unsolved Child Murder”, and that this song was released as a single. Surprisingly light on its feet, acoustic with a walking cello line, it does nonetheless deal in completely unironic fashion with the disappearance of a child – inspired by an actual occurrence from Luke Haines’ own early years, but with largely invented details. Like the rest of the album it leaves the humour, biting or otherwise, behind. For this, The Auteurs’ third album the lyrics might still be incisive, but no-one’s laughing anymore: “People round here don’t like to talk about it: presumed dead – unsolved child murder”.
After Murder Park arose out of the ashes of the Now I’m A Cowboy tour, during which Haines took copious amounts of drugs, and sent abusive letters home to the record label, before hurling himself off a wall. Recovering with the help of more drugs – prescribed this time, naturally – he composed an album in which he has long since lost interest.
The rest of us, and I include myself in this I have to confess, lost interest almost as soon as the album’s release date came around. I bought the single “Light Aircraft on Fire”, but not the album. In a way, I think that was mission accomplished for Haines. Art is not for the man on the Clapham Omnibus for Haines – if you get it, you get it, but if you don’t he doesn’t care. Not too many people “got” the unremitting darkness of After Murder Park. It’s a shame, because it’s musically more varied and rewarding than you would probably imagine, from the visceral organ and guitar attack of “New Brat in Town”, to the almost wistful “Child Brides” and its surprisingly affecting chorus refrain – ‘throw yourself at the tide – I’ll see you on the other side’.
Still, it remains perhaps the perfect anti-Britpop album – a statement of furious intent from one of the original (supposed) Britpop vanguard proving, or perhaps going out of his way to prove, that he was not one of the gang, that his invitation had been delivered to the wrong address. Back in his “Yanks go Home” interview with Select in 1993, Haines had dismissed the nostalgic glances we Brits liked to cast at entertainment like the Carry On series of films: After Murder Park seems very much like nothing if not a stretched out version of the same argument.