Robinsons with The Auteurs

OLD TOM [8.5%] by ROBINSONS

paired with NEW WAVE by THE AUTEURS

The Old Tom Synchronised Snow Angel Team squeeze in one final end of season practice...

For many years I’ve enjoyed indulging in the occasional bottle or three of Robinsons Old Tom. Just how long I’ve no idea but it was certainly way before I discovered ‘craft beer’ and, in all probability, before I began to dabble with ‘real ale’. Sadly, I’ve never had the pleasure of supping a pint of Old Tom and, perhaps slightly bizarrely, I’ve never had anything else from the Robinsons’  beer list… I should rectify both those points in 2012. I get my Old Tom fix from Asda. As far as my taste buds are concerned, the beer choice at Asda is by far the poorest of the 4 big supermarkets but my local branch redeems itself by always having Old Tom sitting invitingly on the shelf. An evening with Old Tom is like an evening with an old and trusted friend: as time goes by the become less and less frequent but when the do occur it’s the finest evening you’ve had for ages and you promise that you’ll have to hang out together again damn soon…

* * *

I got into The Auteurs in the early days of Britpop – in the days when it meant something a bit more than just Blur and Oasis… not much more but a bit more. A friend had got hold of their debut single, Showgirl, and we’d all found it rather impressive. Their debut album, New Wave, was already available but was yet to have the dubious honour of being nominated for the 2nd Mercury Music (they’d lose out to Suede’s debut). I instantly loved the album and it became the soundtrack to my life in the early months of 1993. In May a group of us went to see them play live at Glasgow’s King Tut’s. It was a great but sparsely populated gig – support came from Hut label-mate David Gray, who 5 years later would achieve immense commercial success with White Ladder (which I won’t be pairing with a beer).

In July 93 I moved to Cornwall and continued to foist New Wave upon practically anyone lucky enough to get within earshot. A year after the King Tut’s gig The Auteurs released their 2nd album, Now I’m A Cowboy – I didn’t buy it. I’d heard the lead single, Lenny Valentino, and it had failed to grab me in any meaningful way and as money was a little tight I decided that the album would be an unnecessary luxury. I’ve never bought anything else by Luke Haines (the main man of The Auteurs) – I toyed with the idea of buying the Baader Meinhoff LP, I debated buying the 1st Black Box Recorder album and I seriously considered buying his first true solo release but New Wave is still the only slice of Haines’ sizeable back catalogue that I own… perhaps I’ll rectify that in 2012.

* * *

Robinsons Barley Water (sort of)

Old Tom pours a rich dark brown with a lovely red luminosity – like a well brewed cup of English Breakfast Tea – and is fleetingly crowned with a frothy white head.

The nose is a profusion of fruit: plums and cherries and raisins and sultanas and chopped peel mixed-up with some port and sherry –  it brings to mind the ingredients of an xmas cake as they gently break-down and mature together while they await the oven. There’s also a gentle whiff of  after-dinner chocolates and the merest suggestion of brandy with cigars.

The taste is instantly rich and warming and rewarding. The first rush of flavour comes from the xmas cake fruit and the boozy haze of port and sherry and cherry brandy. The secondary taste wave come courtesy of a bitter dark chocolate that’s been delicately studded with walnuts and red chili flakes. There’s also a little under-current of lightly smoked peppery green grass. The finish is pleasingly bitter and gives an intriguing little tickle to the back of the throat – much as you’d expect from a bar chili chocolate.

Old Tom is a sumptuous beer and perfect for sipping in front of a roaring log fire while the outside world is a blanket of fresh white snow. But no need to panic! I don’t have a log fire and there’s currently very little snow in my hometown but the Old Tom is still tasting absolutely delicious.

* * *

New Wave

New Wave must rank as one of the finest debuts in the history of music and also as one of the great forgotten pop gems of the 1990s.

Overall, it’s a mellow and maudlin affair. Simple but effective piano and percussion blend perfectly with the brooding cello and the sharp cutting guitar. The brutal yet joyful lyrics are an obvious strength and when you couple them with Haines’ near impeccable enunciation it makes for a very word-driven LP… and it’s a drive along some beautifully fucked-up of rollercoaster roads. Every song is perfectly formed and theyall come across like little novels with a musical accompaniment. Interestingly the most upbeat songs often contain the most bitter lyrics – the finest example being American Guitars. Haines’ lyrical skills are top-notch but he also knows how to compose a great tune and frequently displays stylish little flourishes that most songwriters wouldn’t even come close to implementing in a song: a brief pause, a cut-off guitar solo, a subtle but stunning cord change, an unexpected down or upshift of tempo… each song is perfectly crafted and they never over-stay their welcome or succumb to superfluous dalliances.

When I first heard New Wave back in 93 I thought it sounded very much out of time: it didn’t exactly sound ahead of it’s time and it didn’t really sound like it was recorded in a bygone era – it sounded perfectly out of time like it could have been released any year in the past or the future and it would still sound off-kilter and out of sequence. It’s almost 19 years since it release and it still sounds deliciously out of time. New Wave is a fantastically beautiful album and my meagre words fail to do it justice.

Old Tom and New Wave are perfectly matched: they are both quintessentially English and fantastic examples of their chosen art forms but they’re also not quite as fully appreciated as they should be…

* * *

… all photography by landells except New Wave …

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~ by landells on February 11, 2012.

2 Responses to “Robinsons with The Auteurs”

  1. I discovered the Auteurs in retrospect after reading Bad Vibes by Luke Haines due to reading a few reviews. I’d definitely recommend the book, the Auteurs’ Now I’m A Cowboy and the first two Black Box Recorder albums.

    • I am going to have to invest in more Haines material – it’s ridiculous that I’ve loved New Wave for almost 2 decades but I’ve never got anymore of his music. Think I’ll start with his most recent offering, 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s, and then I’ll go back to Now I’m A Cowboy… then I’ll alternate between new and old and eventually if all is well I’ll meet in the middle – should give me an interesting view of his career trajectory. Also need to read his books and catch his and Cathal Coughlan’s North Sea Scrolls

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