The Godlike Genius of Luke Haines

Who else but Luke Haines would release an album called Rock’n’ Roll Animals?


Well, Lou Reed did a live album called Rock’n’Roll Animal – but while it featured live versions of songs like ‘Heroin’ and ‘White Light/White Heat’ it wasn’t a concept album like the latest album from Luke Haines. Rock’n’roll Animals is not only a concept album, it’s about three music stars of times past. To whit: ‘Jimmy Pursey [Sham 69] is a frisky fox; Nick Lowe – a solid badger and Gene Vincent – a cat who’s seen a bit more of life than most of us.’ It’s 32 minutes of whimsy and acerbic whit from Mr. Haines in which they take on the Angel Of The North.

Do yourself a favour and buy it.

He is responsible for one of the best autobiographies about (or by) a musician I have ever read- Bad Vibes is essential- and is a consummate windup merchant. . In 1996, whilst The Auteurs were on hiatus, he released an album under the monkier Baader-Meinhof, about…terrorism.

This song, ‘Child Psychology’ from his time as one-third of Black Box Recorder became one of the few songs to get banned from the radio. Apparently the chorus of ‘life is unfair/kill yourself or get over it’ was a bridge too far (no gag intended).

The Auteurs were awesome, and if I had to pick one of their tracks, it would be this one -‘The Rubettes’- which shows his savvy appropriation of pop culture, and why no-one else could be more caustic than him.

Oh, and his album 21st Century Man is one of the best albums released in the 7 year history of this blog. I would give my right arm to interview him, though I think I would probably be reduced to be a stuttering nervous wreck. He is unlikely to assent. Ah well…

UPDATE: contacted by Mr. Haines via twitter and his record company to arrange an interview! Watch this space…

Album Review: Luke Haines


Luke Haines -’21st Century Man.’ (Fantastic Plastic)

Luke Haines is unquestionably one of Britain’s greatest songwriters. Infused by a knowledge of history and popular culture, his wry observations of life in the UK and bitter melodies should, if life was just, see him as lauded as poet laureate. Though I suspect Mr. Haines wouldn’t accept the position. Few people would think to write a song called ‘Bugger Bognor’ and understand the reference (the dying words of George V) and no-one but Luke Haines could write a song called ‘Unsolved Child Murder’ and put it out as a single. The pairing with him and Richard X on the ‘Art-school Bop’ single in 2006 was inspired, and should have been a hit.

This is his fifteenth album as principle songwriter, and throughout his work with The Servants, The Auteurs, Baader-Meinhof (the group, not the German organisation), Black Box Recorder and solo as well, truly there is none other like him. At the end of ‘The Rubettes’ single in 1999, when he sang deadpan ‘Weren’t the nineties great?’ you knew he clearly didn’t think so, and would tell you exactly why.

There’s a story doing the rounds at the moment that he’s moved to Buenos Aires. The reason for this is that this is what he told a journalist, and there is no truth that he is living in Argentina. But what he has done is produce yet another masterpiece. If musicians’ oeuvres can be compared to films, then I think Haines’ work is comparable to Hitchcock’s Frenzy. Both masters quintessentially English and if Hitchcock hadn’t quipped about putting murder back in the home where it belongs, then I think Luke Haines would have done. Like Frenzy, there are few heroes here.

Despite being quintessentially English, this is also an album about being in exile and songs like ‘Klaus Kinski’ -‘Klaus Kinski went back to Germany after the war’ and Peter Hammill deal with this, as does ‘Our Man In Buenos Aires.’ But if you are in exile, your experience of where you came from and where you find yourself is shaped by what you have come from, the place you have left behind is going to bear heavily upon you. ‘I’m an exile in a foreign land’ he sings on the title track -and sometimes that place seems like the world in which he finds himself.

While I hope he will be with us for many years to come, ’21st Century Man’ might well be his epitaph eventually. With its’ line about ‘Suzy Lamplugh disappeared/David Bowie lost it for years/Died a death in the slap-bass phase/everybody else died of A.I.D.S.’ Whilst many people produce work that is autobiographical, few can do it like Luke Haines can, self-referential, knowing but never self-indulgent.

Long may he run.


Hear two tracks at his myspace/hear him on Last FM

This is just a still for the title track but it is SO worth hearing

Six For Friday

Ah…it’s Friday. Rather braindead, but thought I would share half a dozen good songs with you:

Melys -Chinese Whispers.’ mp3

Panda Bear -‘Comfy In Nautica.’ mp3

Billy Bragg -‘Greetings To The New Brunette.’ mp3

Luke Haines -‘Going Off My Rocker At The Art school Bop.’ mp3

iLIKETRAINS -‘Spencer Perceval.’ mp3

Woody Guthrie -‘This Land Is Your Land.’ mp3

Hope you have a good weekend…and cheers to the lovely Mrs. 17 seconds, as we have now been together for three years!