Meek show from the Auteurs

Richard Cromelin
Los Angeles Times

The Auteurs place themselves in the main channel of great English pop-rock song -- Townshend and Davies to Bowie to Morrissey, among others. But after two albums, it's still too early to tell whether they'll sink or swim.

The London-based band's leader, Luke Haines, writes cryptic commentaries whose fragmented images suggest manipulations, intrigues and obsession. An air of faint decadence pervades biting character sketches that are played out against shifting backdrops of the English class system and American fantasy.

All this could use a more dramatic, restless, aggressive delivery than it got at the Whisky, where the Auteurs headlined Thursday. Haines kept his wit and bite confined to the lyrics, typifying the quintet's friendly but meek stage manner.

His singing is expressive and effective but somewhat narrow -- a sort of enlarged, raspy whisper that sometimes touches a Van Morrison nerve. A cello stabbed counterpoint against churning, chopping guitars, but it all came off as dogged and colorless where the songs want to be soaring and sparkling.