The Auteurs - Dingwalls, London

Ian Watson
Melody Maker

Pity poor Luke Haines, a man weighed down by the burden of talent. It's odd to think that this sneering bundle of cynical intelligence was once expected to follow in the pop- star footsteps of Suede (the words "thank heavens for small mercies" spring instantly to mind - my words, not the journo's), but then you can see the result of that in the frown lines of his forehead. What torment it must be to pen artistically accomplished, wryly emotive songs and still be dismissed on the grounds of looks and fashion? Anyone would turn bitter after that, succumb to drink or drugs just to blot out the pain. No wonder, you think.

Thing is, there's always been more to Luke than simply hatred. The reason he seems as if he was born holding a grudge is that his ever-alert brain is constantly picking holes in the world around him. He can see the unhappy child brides and the sinister machinations of the upper classes and he understands his place in this twisted world more than most. He knows he can only ever be truly happy with his spine against the wall, so he observes every last moment of madness as it unfolds around him. And then he shares it all with us.

Rejoice for Luke, for the crucial point everyone has missed is that he's calmly enacting his revenge. How he must have laughed when he heard Neil Hannon's diluted version of his parlour style and relished the fact that the Auteurs would soon return to show how vicious a sophisticated put-down can be when married to real spite. The vast gulf between the two is certainly evident tonight, as he deliberately emphasises the twee side of his melodies just to underpin the ridicule seething underneath. In Baader Meinhoff, his alter-ego, he takes it a deranged step further. While Luke Auteur gets his own back on the world by exposing it's many weaknesses, Luke Meinhoff meticulously plots bloody retribution, detailing a new murder in each separate song. You wonder if this is a complex warning and think about looking back on those tunes and seeing a welled planned killing-spree that could have been averted, but that's just being melodramatic. At least everyone who dies in these songs does so for a reason. There's no random venting of spleen, no pointless venom.

Best and most ironically of all, Baader Meinhoff are the closest Luke has come to a commercial concern. The clipped, glam guitaring of the Auteurs is given a sharp new dimension thanks to the addition of dirty-assed funk and dashes of dark disco. There's a real sleeze groove to many of the songs, building on the initial style with an opulence which laughs at the notion of easy listening for the masses - and its plain to see that Luke is really enjoying twisting creativity into brutal new shapes, just as he always has.

Envy Luke, for he has the Devil's way with luck.