The most accessible ‘greatest hits’ set yet from one of England’s greatest songwriters.
Jaime Gill 2012
Luke Haines’ third ‘greatest hits’ collection, Outsider/In contains precisely zero top 40 singles. But this is still the most straightforward, least-cantankerous attempt yet made at capturing his early brilliance, mostly delivered under the banner of The Auteurs.
No doubt Haines’ recent oddball fame as Britpop-skewering memoirist and surprisingly affable documentary star prodded Outsider/In into production. Haines’ previous compilations, the Las-Vegas-indie reworkings of Das Capital and the oddities ‘n’ obscurities behemoth Luke Haines is Dead, were typically contrarian; but Outsider/In presents 36 of his finest early songs unadorned.
Showgirl immediately begins the wrong-footing: it kicks off as brash, jangling, garden variety indie pop before pausing, sighing with disdain, and proceeding on a far more languid, melancholic and beautiful path. Proceedings end with the wordless weirdness of Gsg-29, a grimy funk jam from Haines’ brief period working under the name of a West German terrorist gang, Baader Meinhof. That such provocation was not unusual for Haines may partly explain the general public’s stubborn resistance to his particular charms.
In between, the songs veer between eccentric and acidic (Death of Sarah Lucas’ shimmering, simmering loathing; Discomania’s sinister scuzz) and elegant and eloquent (Starstruck’s muted melancholy; The Rubettes’ nostalgia-dazzled swoon). The bruising, buzzsaw-glam of Lenny Valentino charted at 41, a typically Haines-ian near-miss. Most songs approach perfection, and at least two reach that rare and hallowed ground.
On the impossibly graceful The Upper Classes, Haines takes us on a slow stroll around the stately homes of England, his bloodied blade barely concealed beneath his tour guide’s uniform. Listen carefully and you can hear Jarvis Cocker scribbling notes. And in two sublime minutes, Unsolved Child Murder unfolds one of the most gorgeous, perfectly crafted melodies in all pop.
Haines’ small but rabid fanbase will no doubt grumble over certain omissions and admissions, but the above-noted two songs alone earn Haines his place as one of England’s greatest songwriters. “The next generation will get it from the start,” Haines once sneered at those overlooking his work. Outsider/In is a fine place for them to get started.