No way. Luke Haines
he is the most eccentric personality in the UK alternative scene. From when he started his musical carreer with The Servants and later with The Auteurs (formed in 1991) he has always been not only one of the most brilliant musician and songwriter in the United Kingdom, but he has also always been what we could surely define as an ‘outsider’. When The Auteurs published their second album, ‘Now I’m a Cowboy’, one of the most significant episode in the UK music of the nineties and exactly in the moment in which other bands as Oasis, Blur, Suede were becoming really famous and popoular because the so-defined ‘brit-pop’, he just gave a fuck to everything because he broke both of his ankles and cancelled the European tour, claiming he did it because he wanted to end the tour and get the insurance. In the meanwhile, while he was standing in a wheel chair, he wrote The Auteurs’ third album, ‘After Murder Park’, produced by Steve Albini and recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London and a year later created the solo side-project called Baader-Meinhof (so name after the Baader Meinhof terrorist group), innovating a lot the sound introducing elements of funk and electronica and taking definitely a distance from what were actually the mainstream music in the United Kingdom. Of course the project was also object of several discussion because the contents of the lyrics, substantially dedicated to argument like terrorism and the several actions of the Red Army Faction, captained by terrorists Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.
From that moment, he started to build and destroy every time the contents of his music and in a certain way what were time after the time all the contents of the UK music of the last twenty-five years. He has always been someone even-contrary. His solo carreer (in the meanwhile he also created another side-project with John Moore, formerly of The Jesus and Mary Chain: Black Box Recorder) is very controverse and with several episodes differents one from others. He appearently has never followed a line into his artistic production. He is a wild artist and he’s motherfucker, always walking out of the line and doing what the fuck he want like, he is the anti-hero of the UK musical scene. You could never prevent what he will do every time.
This last release for example, ‘Smash The System’ (no title could be actually fit better than this for a release of an artist like Luke Haines), out via Cherry Red Records last week, it’s in practice his first no-concept album in six years. A long period of time in which Luke has published four concept-album: ‘9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early ’80s’ (2011), in practice psychedelic arrangments talking about old wrestlers (among them: Mark Rocco, Gorgeous George, Mick McManus, Pat Roach…) making their fictional stories. ‘Rock and Roll Animals’ (2013), with the title obviously referred to the 1974 live album of Lou Reed and in which the main concept follows a narrative story about outsiders people rapresented as animals. The three main characters? A cat called Gene Vincent, a badger called Nick Lowe and a fox called Jimmy Pursey. ‘New York in the ’70s’ (2014), a concept album in which he describes some scenes from New York City in 1970s art world talking about social context, drug use, sexual liberty and namedropping a bunch of people as Lou Reed (who died just a few months earlier), Jim Carroll, Jimmy Hendrix, the fashion photographer Bill Cunningham… The album was heavily influenced by the sound of the Suicide of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, a point of reference across all the productions of Haines but become very relevant in the last years. This is also evident in the minimal wave of ‘British Nuclear Bunkers’ (2015). Announced by the message, ‘This is an emergency broadcast from the BBC. Information of a possible nucleare strike against this country has been received,’ the album concept it’s a sci-fi fictioned story made of lights and sounds. Ideally the sequel, seventy years later, of what Orson Wells did announcing at the CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) that the martinas were planed in New Jersey, next a farm in Govers Mill (he was actually reading, ‘The War of the Worlds’, by H.G. Wells). The contents are claustrophobic and terrifying, the City of London is under strike and we’re actually moving in the dark of the underground of London in extreme situations.
The schizo-rockabilly, ‘Adventures In Dementia’ EP, followed. A crazy album in which he narrates a story in which Mark E Smith and The Fall made a car accident with a car driven by the skinhead and singer of the notorious ‘white power’ band Skrewdriver, Ian Stuart…
Guess that the description of this albums could also give an idea of which could actually be the musical contents of this album. In a certain way, everything I wrote is actually necessary to interpretrate this appearently cryptical records.
‘Smash The System’ opens recalling again Ulrike Meinhof in the wave obsessive sonorities of ‘Ulrike Meinhof’s Brain Is Missing’ (it was actually so, her brain was missing immediately after her death and found by her daughter Bettina twenty-five years later into a warehouse of the University of Magdeburgo), the best possible and crude way to narrate about a very controversial fact in the history of German. ‘Black Bunny (Not Vince Taylor)’ pays really homage to the Suicide and it’s an ideal sequel of the album he released in the last years because of its contents (think to ‘Rock and Roll Animals’) and of the sonorities. ‘Ritual Magick’ and ‘Bomber Jacket’ are two cruel psychedelic ballads, visionary and allucinated at the same time and played in a style that reminds to some episodes of the discography of Julian Cope. The same it is s possibly also with ‘The Incredible String Band’, an odd and eccentric psychedelic ballad with an unconventional kazoo solo.’Marc Bolan Blues’ it’s with evidence a tribute to the English songwriter and to the music of the T. Rex. With ‘Bruce Lee, Roman Polanski and Me’ and the lysergic Spacemen 3’s influenced ‘Cosmic Man’ sound in the same claustrophobic way of ‘British Nuclear Bunkers’ and saw Haines again namedropping Hollywood figures in a fictional way. A way he uses with evidence to literally ‘Smash the System’, a wave track in the style of the best Gary Numan and with aggressive tones and the insurgent sound of the synthesizers. Finally, a song he would probably dedicated to all of us and even to himself, just a question: ‘Are You Mad?’
Is he mad the man who pretend to smash the system? Are we mad when we are going counter-corrent? Who is noncomformist, actually a ‘maverick’. Who is actually trying to find and to define himself also and even comparing his personality with the one of the ‘Rock and Roll Animals’ sung by Luke Haines. Are we possibly ‘Rock and Roll Animals’? Which animal do you really want or pretend to be? And what about Luke Haines?
He declared that has literally first created and then destroyed the UK music of the last twenty years. He is a person with a great sense of humour and more than this a good ability in watching around himself and judging and comprehending the world in which we actually live and with a special and particular eye to the so-called ‘mainstream’, paying homage and at the same time also destroying icons of the world of music and the contents of the so-called pop-culture. He is a brilliant writer too, he is used to write same several interesting reviews and always expressing his opinion without any ipocricy and contestualizing every single album because of the artist who actually recorded it and the odiern musical scene, the life we are living. He’s a good narrator and I like to listen to him.
Couldn’t end this review without reporting the launch message of the album and inviting everyone of you to literally follow his words and invitation.
‘Smash The System’ is a Ritual Magick agit prop call to arms. So, sisters and brothers break out the psychic ammo and call the New Gods: Eric Bristow, Giant Haystacks, and Brian Jacks; we petition you with prayer.
We the under-signed smear ourselves with the menstrual blood of Ulrike Meinhof and raise our horns to the mythical Black Bunny. Praise to the Power Of The Witch. Death to the middle brow. Realise self actualisation now! Vince Taylor did not die! Exalt the vagina and always keep a little Marc in your heart.
Do you like the Monkees? Yeah? Then Smash The System. Dig.