“Sugar Baby Love” has been ruined for me – actually, no, I don’t know if ruined is the right word – it’s been colonised by The Auteurs’ 1999 single “The Rubettes”, which hollows it out from the inside like some evil necrotising virus, reducing the original to a malicious husk. One subtext of “The Rubettes” is that if you’re the kind of boy who spends long lonely hours in your bedroom listening to the Top 40, you’re likely to grow up disappointed: the emotional cheques pop writes you will always bounce, because pop is what happens to other people. Another subtext is that while the seventies were horrible, things have only got worse. (By the Auteurs’ standards it’s a pretty cheery record, mind you: at least nobody gets murdered.)
The misanthropy in “The Rubettes” may not impress you, but Luke Haines found a great record to pick on. “Sugar Baby Love” – by a studio act put together as a glam cash-in – is impeccably generic and a total candyfloss rush all at once: the rock’n’roll revival in a bubblegum pile-up. Its fabulous urgency is considerably amped by Paul Da Vinci’s lead vocal – falsetto shrieks, crazed pleadings, “Love her anyway! Love her anyway!” – he’s desperate to get his message over. And the message is – don’t worry about the mistakes, seize life, seize love. Whereas the Auteurs reply – already too late, sucker. Sometimes I don’t know which I believe, but I know which I want to.