So, this is where I have a dilemma.
We are coming to a period where Luke Haines began to become, more or less, an albums-only artiste. Techically, I could wrap this series with two, maybe three more entries depending on how things are categorised (and I’m thinking that quite a few of you would wish that I would!!)
But I’ve decided to re-interpet the title of the series in that every thing Luke Haines has ever recorded has been of a singular nature, and so will be devoting space to each of the releases between 2009 and 2018, sometimes wrapping a few up in one posting.
There will be a number of posts in which I will pontificate at length, but for today, I think it is best and easier to simply offer up a contemporary review of the 2xCD release of 21st Century Man/Achtung Mutha from 2009, the first new music from Luke Haines after the overwhelmingly positive response to the release of Bad Vibes, an occasion that offered up an opportunity to play to the mainstream once more. An opportunity, not unexpectedly, spurned:-
Despite having written probably the least discreet and most bilious – and funniest – of all pop autobiographies (Bad Vibes), Luke Haines still clearly relishes playing the Wyndham Lewis of his era, setting himself up as The Enemy of any cultural tropes that threaten to achieve critical mass.
As he notes in the self-condemning “Our Man In Buenos Aires”, “he’s brought a truckload of trouble down on everyone”. Hence his affinity in 21st Century Man for such stubborn, self-sabotaging outsider spirits as Peter Hammill and Klaus Kinski, prickly performers who plough their own furrows whatever the collateral damage. “Who needs people? Who needs friends? They drive you round the fucking bend,” Haines inserts into the latter’s mouth, whilst mellotron, acoustic guitar and glockenspiel compose a tender garland.
Elsewhere, he returns to the disputatious north/south divide in the glam-rock stomp of “English Southern Man”, characterises suburbia as a darkling idyll stained with sleazy portents in “Suburban Mourning”, and offers sardonic self-justification in the mockney “Wot A Rotter” and the wistful title-track, where references to Yasser Arafat, John Stonehouse and the Green Cross Code Man are draped in creepy mellotron and snarls of wah-wah guitar which sound much like his nemesis Suede.
Andy Gill, The Independent 30 October 2009
There’s actually quite a lot to appreciate on 21st Century Man, not least the thought that Haines is actually enjoying his latest brush with fame and that his way to deal with it is to become more self-deprecating “Looked in the mirror, I said who’s that fucking freak?” is another of the lines on Our Man In Buenos Aires. The music veers in many directions – the Pete Doherty-baiting Wot A Rotter is close to glam rock, while Love Letter to London is almost Kinks-esque in places – but as many of the reviews of the time highlighted, the closing autobiographical track, at almost seven minutes length, is one of his best from any time in his career:-
The second CD, Achtung Mutha, is a quite different proposition altogether. 9 bits of music (it would be stretching it to describe them all as songs) over 27 minutes, the three longest of which are spoken word numbers that take up mpre than half of the disc and involve having a dig at the world of modern art and those who both produce and laud it. It’s not the easiest of listens…..
Tune in next week for something even more off the wall……….
I’d forgotten that I have three tracks from 21st Century Man that were recorded for a radio session for 6 Music show hosted by Marc Riley in November 2009. It’s evidence of how hugely entertaining Luke Haines is when he performs for an audience (note, however, that he cuts out any swearing so as not to fall foul of the bosses at the beeb):-