Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s

Anyone who’s read the British tabloids in the 1990s learns to recognise the purse-lipped nudges and twitched-curtain insinuations that have become the endlessly reported cousins of inexplicable crime. Always a loner. I blame the parents. No smoke without fire. Kept himself to himself. If it had been my daughter…..

Luke Haines knows them too: “More hate mail through the door / Didn’t know that Sundays could be useful after all”. The lilting cello-drawn melody of “Unsolved Child Murder” dilutes and disguises the song’s sting. This track was where Haines – long acerbic, curdled and vicious to no great effect – widened his focus and, darkly, blossomed. His clipped, two-minute pen-portrait of the desperation, horror, vulturism and hypocrisy surrounding public tragedy is the equal of anything Costello’s done since “Night Rally”, and is all the better for its whispery detachment. Haines is too tired to be angry, and too fascinated to be preachy. The unassuming music shows his gift for prettiness well: (you’d say it was ironic if Luke Haines’ every song didn’t hammer home what a useless, inevitable response irony has ended up being.) “Unsolved Child Murder”, short but infinitely listenable, switches queasily between reportage and first-person straw-clutching, and is in the final analysis as unknowable as the events it sketches.