Gig review: Luke Haines / Vinny Peculiar
Luminaire, London, October 18, 2006
Ever had the feeling that the best nights of your life are the ones that weren’t really planned? That’s kind of how it was for this night. Luke Haines, he of Auteurs and Black Box Recorder fame, launching his new solo album Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop. I read about the gig on the train in to London, and convinced my brother he had to come. He needed no second telling.
Support came from the fabulous Vinny Peculiar. Managed by Bonehead (yes, he of Oasis fame, the man is a gent), they truly are fabulous. Having not heard their songs before, I was won over, as were the crowd. The singer, Vinny Peculiar himself, just clearly is one of the best singer-songwriters out there right now (if you are having to put your hand up like I was, check the link below. I’m making up for lost time). These are songs that make you laugh – yup, Mr. Zappa, there is room for humour in music, but also think. Check their myspace page,The Everlasting Teenage Bedroom and Jesus Stole My Girlfriend need to be heard. Now. Oh, and the band also include Mike Joyce and Craig Gannon from The Smiths. What are you waiting for?
In 1993, The Auteurs’ debut album New Wave suggested that in Luke Haines, here was someone who should be up there as one of England’s greatest lyricists. If Morrissey reminds me of Alan Bennett, then Luke Haines reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s British films (think Dial M For Murder, Frenzy, and both versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much.) This evening, backed on bass and drums, Haines demonstrated that he is truly unique and necessary. Whilst some artists seem to hark back to a supposedly wonderful past, Haines reminds us that things weren’t perfect either. His is a black sense of humour – I can’t imagine the Arctic Monkeys writing a song like Unsolved Child Murder, or The Mitford Sisters. Yet new songs like Leeds United remind us that he can make singalong songs out of the most unlikely themes (even when they seem as bleak as Elvis Costello’s I Want You). He knows his stagecraft too ‘I felt like Freddie Mercury at Live Aid’ he quips at one point. He understands just how dark popular culture can be behind the scenes – Bad Reputation points out how revelations about Gary Glitter’s private life have destroyed not only his reputation but also overshadowed childhood memories. He finishes his first part of the set with the Rubettes, and it’s still just as dark, but ever more poignant than it was in 1999. ‘Weren’t the nineties great?’ When he returns for the encore and asks what songs we want to hear, no-one’s yelling for the Richard x remix of the latest single, but there’s so many songs we might want to hear -Showgirl, Junk Shop Clothes, Chinese Bakery, Lenny Valentino…but Baader Meinhof and Future Generation more than hit the spot.
In 2000, as part of Black Box Recorder, Haines was on Top of the Pops performing Facts of Life. That show has long since gone, but Haines is still with us, a ‘cult act’ if you like, but oh, how his songbook deserves to be in so many more homes. A true original. Like I say, some of the best nights out are the ones that weren’t planned.