AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #180 : LUKE HAINES

A GUEST POSTING by ROL HIRST
My Top Ten Blog

Compared to The Auteurs (4 albums and a handful of EPs) and Black Box Recorder (3 albums and a compilation of odds & sods), Luke Haines’ solo career is pretty hard to keep up with. Indeed, during the course of compiling these ICAs I discovered the great man had released a new album, I Sometimes Dream Of Glue, earlier this year to very little fanfare. Haven’t been able to track a copy down yet so nothing from that is included here, but there’s much to enjoy in Haines’s solo career if you’re not afraid of concept albums and you’re prepared to humour the odd missteps such as the BBC-Radiophonic-workshop-does-apocalypse-instrumentals of British Nuclear Bunkers. Anyway, here’s a bunch of my favourites…

SIDE A

1. Rock ‘n’ Roll Communique #1

The opening track from The Oliver Twist Manifesto, Haines’ first official solo album, (although many argue that title should actually go to the last Auteurs album, How I Learned To Love The Bootboys), this is as clear a manifesto as you could want from any pop star.

This is not entertainment
Don’t expect me to entertain you
Any more than you could entertain me
It may not be pretty
People might get hurt
Reputations could be tarnished
(People round here don’t like to talk about it)

Run away if you don’t like it
You don’t need to worry your pretty head about it
Don’t beg for mercy, you’ll get none, now it’s war

This is rock ‘n’ roll communique No.1
Hell for leather, spare no expenses
Jammy bastards, sod the consequences
All named and shamed

This is not entertainment

Except it is! It really is!

 

2. Saturday Afternoon

Nostalgia for the 70s and 80s – the “good old days” of our youth – is a big part of Haines’ act these days. There are no rose-tinted glasses here though. Haines sees much to love in those halcyon days… but isn’t afraid to peer into the murky underbelly of the time either.

Saturday Afternoon is the most approachable track from the wonderfully bizarre concept album 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s & Early ’80s, a record which does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. As such, its appeal will largely depend on whether you remember these days in the same way Haines does. If, like me, you grew up watching Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks fight it out on Saturday afternoon TV, this will push all the right nostalgic buttons…

Saturday afternoon
Saturday afternoon
There’s Evel Knievel
Catweazle’s false teeth
Fly out of the telly
And land at my feet

Mother, what’s for tea?
Liver sausage sandwich and cheese
They’re fighting on the terraces
Starting at two
There’s a tag team in the corner
Of our front room

3. Leeds United

The darker side of that particular vein of nostalgia is seen here, in a song that works well as a companion piece to David Peace’s Red Riding novels. Violence on the terraces and the sinister threat of the Yorkshire Ripper. My dad worked in Leeds during the 70s. Although I was very young, I recognise the shadow cast over that city that Haines successfully evokes here in a song told from the perspective of a young man in serious danger of being dragged into hell.

No leads for the West Yorkshire police
In Victorian Leeds, concrete Leeds
There’s a killer on the terraces, better call in Doris Stokes
The devil came to Yorkshire in the silver Jubilee
It could be Kendo Nagasaki, Jimmy Savile or the Queen
Leeds United – Leeds United – Leeds United – Leeds United
The North, the North
Where we do what we want
The North the North
Where we do what we like

At the time, Haines took a bit of flack from northern fans for the lyrics here. What right does that Southern Jessie have to talk about how grim it is or was up north? I’m reminded of Neil Young laying into Lynyrd Skynyrd in Southern Man, and Skynyrd hitting back with Sweet Home Alabama. In America, the North-South divide is reversed, of course. Alabama and Leeds were kindred spirits… and I say that as a proud(-ish) Yorkshireman.

4. English Southern Man

All of which led to this track, Haines’ response to the Leeds United hecklers. As proud a celebration of being a southerner as the aforementioned Skynyrd track, this tries to reclaim the term “God’s own country” from greedy, grabbing Yorkshiremen and relocate it to Haines’ beloved south coast. Tongue is, of course, firmly in cheek again, and anyone who takes offence at this really needs to get a life… or risk becoming the same northern cliché Haines was parodying above.

5. North Sea Scrolls – Broadmoor Blues Delta

Haines’ nostalgic obsession with the land of his birth reached its zenith with the North Sea Scrolls album, a collaboration with Cathal Coughlan and journalist Andrew Mueller. Described as “an alternative history of the British Isles”, it chronicles through alternating songs and spoken word pieces a bizarre parallel dimension where DJ Chris Evans is burnt at the stake, Enoch Powell becomes Poet Laureate, and Princess Anne’s kidnapper is the lead singer of Gomez (they’re both called Ian Ball, see). To be honest, pulling one track out for inclusion here doesn’t really work – you have to listen to the whole album to appreciate its true glory. But equally I couldn’t leave The North Sea Scrolls out of this ICA, because it is Haines at his surreal and acerbic best.

Side B

1. 21st Century Man

You may not appreciate the comparison, but this is Luke Haines’ version of We Didn’t Start The Fire by Billy Joel. You know how on that song (which you probably pretend to hate, but I’ll forgive you) Billy chronicles his life through the big names and events in the news and pop culture? Well, In 21st Century Man, Luke Haines does just the same. So this is the We Didn’t Start The Fire it’s cool to like! You don’t have to hide it way in back of your record collection the way you do that secret, stained Billy Joel 12”. Really. It’s the first step… after that, you can join my support group. We meet every Tuesday night in the old church hall behind the Spar.

2. The Heritage Rock Revolution

Have I used the word “iconoclastic” in this feature yet? Here’s a typically barbed love letter to the editors of Mojo and Uncut… and, I guess, most members of the music blogosphere – talk about biting the hand that feeds!

I love rock ‘n’ roll
I hope it never dies
Put it in a chocolate box and
Bury it alive

3. Alan Vega Says

Of course, just when you think you’ve got Luke Haines neatly pigeonholed, he goes and releases a record like New York In The 70s, reminding us that for all his grumpy Englishness, he’s long been a fan of American music too (as discussed in more detail back in Volume 1 of this ICA). The album pays tribute to many of Haines’ musical heroes from the titular city and decade, including the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Jim Carroll, and especially Suicide’s Alan Vega. The repetitive lyrics and low key electro-punk work as a perfect tribute, making for one of Haines’ most accessible albums of recent years.

4. Smash The System

There comes a point in your live when you realise that rebellion and revolution is a young man’s dream. The title track from Haines’ 2016 album invites us to embrace Morris dancing, admit that we love the Monkees, and riot for the summer. Mid-life, middle-class crisis in song. Perfect!

5. Christ

And finally… If you haven’t yet read Luke Haines’ two excellent memoirs – Bad Vibes and Post-Everything – well, I realise there’s little chance of me persuading you… but perhaps you’ll listen to JC: here and here. As a taster, I offer you the final track on this most difficult to compile ICA (oh, the ones I had to leave off!), which is those two books condensed into one song. The manifesto from our opening track comes full circle here. And of course, Haines reveals his long-suspected God-complex in all its glory.

At the age of 33 and a third, the time that Christ spent on earth
I decided to cut all ties with showbiz
As the awards piled up in the bath, well I started to laugh
At all those who died in the name of light entertainment

Be thankful Luke Haines never became a big star. I’m pretty sure he is. He’s made far more interesting work on the sidelines. Continued success is overrated anyway.

ROL

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #178 : THE AUTEURS

A GUEST POSTING by ROL HIRST
from MY TOP TEN blog

When JC mentioned recently that he’d worked through his backlog of ICAs and put out a tentative call for new offerings, I consulted the list I have pinned to my notice board and wondered which one (of many) ICA-bereft artists I might have a go at. The name Luke Haines leapt out at me, and I had to double-check that JC hadn’t yet written an ICA for the man he once called “the curmudgeonly king of anti-Britpop” himself.

Right, I’m having that, I thought, when I realised he hadn’t. And then I realised what an impossible task I’d set myself. Covering the whole of Luke Haines’ prolific recording career in one ICA was the equivalent of attempting a Weller ICA which combined The Jam, The Style Council and his solo stuff. It was just never going to happen. The only way to do it was to divide the ICA into three and hope JC would indulge me. We’ll see… if you’re reading this at The Vinyl Villain, I guess he has. If you’re reading it at My Top Ten, I guess he told me where to stick it.

Side A

1. The Rubettes

I came late to The Auteurs, in 1999, around the time Haines was getting sick of the whole business of trying to be in an indie pop band and was ready to pack it all in. (Read his first excellent biography Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall for more on that.) It turns out though that I’d already “discovered” Luke Haines the year before through the debut album by Black Box Recorder. I just didn’t make the Auteurs connection until How I Learned To Love The Bootboys was released. It was a very confusing time. Story of my life, really: I came late to most of the bands I ended up loving.

The Rubettes is the song that set the tone for much of Haines’ solo work – a grimly nostalgic longing for his youth in the 70s and 80s, loving and scathing in equal measures. The single got quite a bit of airplay at the time: not bad for a song with a chorus about masturbating while listening to the radio.

Hells angels on TV
And your biker ’73
Sew on patch – cycle chains
Iron cross on your C&A’s
Can’t get in the disco
Can’t dance anyway

2. Show Girl

Back to the beginning then, and the opening track from the debut Auteurs album, New Wave. Released in 1993, when Britpop was but a twitch in Brett Anderson’s underpants, it immediately established Haines as one of the most entertaining lyricists of his era – like a less romantic Jarvis, or a Morrissey who doesn’t both hate and love himself*.

*I suppose I should explain that remark, especially here in the Former Republic of Morrissey Fandom, now renamed isntheatwatland. Morrissey has clearly made a career out of a curious mix of self-love and self-loathing. Haines combines the wit and cynicism we all loved about pre-Brexit Moz with a healthy dose of iconoclasm… but you never get the feeling that he’s a nasty man. In fact, he seems like quite a jolly chap in person… something which surprised and confounded our glorious leader when he caught him live back in 2017. (By the way, if you’re interested in what Luke Haines thinks about Morrissey, this review is worth a read, although I suspect he’d be less charitable nowadays.)

Sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah, Show Girl…

I married a showgirl
That’s for life
She can’t work
In the wintertime
I can’t work anytime now
Go to libraries all the while
Looking for a notice
Biding my time

3. Unsolved Child Murder

Around the time the chirpy-chirpy cheep cheep of Country House / Wonderwall Britpop was at its jingoistic peak, Luke Haines threw himself off a fifteen foot wall so he wouldn’t have to be involved in it all anymore, then spent a year writing an album about dead children and plane crashes.

Imagine a terminally depressed Ray Davies with his tongue firmly lodged in his arse cheek. After Murder Park predates This Is Hardcore by two years, but the two records share a similar desire to hammer six inch nails into the coffin of Britpop once and for all.

Haines’ bleak sense of humour obviously survived the fall in one piece.

4. Johnny & The Hurricanes

For an artist so steeped in all things English, Luke Haines also has a great affection for American pop music. On American Guitars, he professed his love for grunge, while here he strays back to the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll, clearly explaining why rock ‘n’ roll seemed so exciting when heard via “English tarmac, English rain”.

There’s a sting in this tale though, as at the height of their fame, Johnny & The Hurricanes headlined the Star Club in Hamburg… where they were supported by a bunch of British upstarts called The Beatles. At least, I presume this is why Haines chose to write about this particular band… I may be wrong.

5. Lenny Valentino 

Let’s conclude Side A with the single that got the Auteurs closer to the UK Top 40 than any other… and what better position to stall at in that endeavour than #41?

Side B

1. Light Aircraft On Fire

More gloriously outrageous doom and gloom, still winking at the camera, from that most bleak “cake & eat it” anti-Britpop album, After Murder Park. Another minor hit that should have been massive… except we’d wouldn’t have loved it as much if it was.

2.  Back With The Killer Again

Video director Chris Cunningham would go on to work with Madonna, Bjork and Aphex Twin, but two of his earliest videos were for The Auteurs, most notably the grimly hilarious horror film that accompanied the title track of this particular EP. Not the sort of thing you’d expect Luke Haines to be associated with, but it’s useless trying to pigeonhole this guy.

3. How Could I Be Wrong

In which Luke defines himself as a groundbreaker, pallbearer, actor, peacemaker, plan hatcher lifesaver and soul snatcher. How could he be wrong?

4. Chinese Bakery

Always reminds me of Lloyd Cole, this one. I think it’s as close as Luke gets to a love song…

Got a roller coaster in my head
You press the button – I’ll eject
Your present is just somebody’s past
Don’t blink, pinch me twice
Just seen Bob Dylan on a motorbike
I don’t think this relationship will last

5.  New French Girlfriend

…well, apart from this one, which has just about the loveliest opening line you could expect from that “curmudgeonly king of anti-Britpop” (thanks again, J.C.). If I had to pick, this would probably be my favourite Auteurs song. Don’t ask me why though, I haven’t a clue.

Want a girl to hold my hand
When the plane lands
When the cracks appear in the plan
And the rocks turn into sand
Better call my new French girlfriend

ROL

JC adds……….this is the first of three splendid ICAs coming your way courtesy of Rol.  He’s done something I’ve long thought about by tackling the two bands and the solo careers and his choices wouldn’t be all that different from mine.  Huge thanks from me……

Oh and here’s that video he referred to; it’s actually quite hard to find:-

BONUS POST : DID THEY CUT THE MUSTARD IN 2017? #7 : LUKE HAINES

SATURDAY 13 MAY 2007 : LUKE HAINES

THE HUG & PINT, GLASGOW

I’m sure we’ve all been there. You look forward to a show or event for months on end only for the anticipated pleasure to be ruined by something completely unrelated. Welcome to my sour-faced review of An Evening with Luke Haines as experienced on Saturday 13 May 2017.

The tickets, for myself and Jacques the Kipper, were bought some four months in advance and seemed to be a great way for us to enjoy what was scheduled to be the first weekend after the end of the football season as well as giving me something to look forward to just a few days after the last of the stragglers had gone home after the Bloggers Weekend. The problem, however, was that Raith Rovers FC didn’t follow the script, tail-spinning out of control in the final few months of the season and finding themselves in a relegation play-off, with the second leg of the semi-final being the same day as the gig.

It still shouldn’t have been an issue; after all the game was kicking off at 3pm and by the time it was over there would still be plenty of time to get down to Glasgow in leisurely fashion enjoying what, on paper, should have been a comfortable passage to the final (albeit the scheduling of the final was going to lead to different scheduling issues for both of us).

The game went to extra time and then penalties. OK, that would have made us late in getting down to Glasgow but still in time for the show albeit we would need to cut short the plans to enjoy, at a leisurely pace, some food and drink beforehand. But Rovers somehow contrived to lose the shoot out and thus suffer the ignominy of relegation to the third tier of Scottish football. It’s fair to say it put a dampener on things for us.

What I really needed to cheer me up was a quality performance from the curmudgeonly king of anti-Britpop. A show in which he sang a few songs interspersed with some scathing observations on love, live and the landscape of pop and politics in the 21st Century as he regularly dispenses via various strands of social. An evening in which some OTT grumpiness would blow away the black clouds of despondency floating above my head. But wouldn’t you know it – Luke Haines turned out to a charming, debonair and cheerful bloke on stage and not at all what I, nor I suspect most of the audience, was expecting.

There were plenty of songs, some from the back catalogue and many from the more recent solo career with a fair sprinkling from the bonkers but occasionally brilliant (and nigh-on impossible to find) concept LP Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s that he released back in 2011. There was the occasional barbed comment and there was one extended reading from Bad Vibes, the first of his two autobiographical volumes. All in all, it was a very decent and worthy night.

But it just didn’t do it for me.

Yes, it was great to hear the songs and it was almost worth the ticket price alone for the book reading session (his particular targets on this occasion were Chris Evans and Ocean Colour Scene). But I came away wishing he had spent more time being annoyed and hacked off than seemingly happy and content with his lot. It turned out to be more akin to a night with Martin Stephenson (which itself is never a bad thing as folk who remember my reviews over on the old blog can testify) when I was desperate for something more along the lines of a tuneful and more sarcastic Henry Rollins.

Come back soon Luke Haines as I will ensure I’m there for a second helping. But please, don’t wear the comfy slippers this time round. Here’s three of tunes aired on the night in question.

mp3 : The Auteurs – Underground Movies
mp3 : Luke Haines – Baader Meinhof
mp3 : Luke Haines – Gorgeous George

JC

READ IT IN BOOKS : LUKE HAINES (2)

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As with yesterday, another re-post. This time from 11 December 2012:-

Readers of old will hopefully recall back in early 2009 when I posted a very glowing review of Bad Vibes, the wonderfully funny and acidic take on Britpop as seen through the eyes of Luke Haines.

The follow-up to Bad Vibes was published in mid-2011. Entitled Post-Everything, it was a book I rushed out and bought on the first day it was available…but the lack of any subsequent review will perhaps indicate that I was left feeling a wee bit disappointed with it. It wasn’t that Post-Everything was a rotten read….it was more that it didn’t tickle me the same way as Bad Vibes…..but as with when I go and see a disappointing gig I don’t offer my negative thoughts via this blog.

But the other day I picked up Post-Everything again, and this second go has totally changed my mind as I’m very firmly of the view that it’s not only as good as Bad Vibes but is a more enjoyable and entertaining read. It’s a book that is still incredibly funny in places but there’s also a lot of cracking passages in which Luke Haines got me thinking about lots of different things well beyond music. Oh and there’s a fair bit of piss-taking at famous people – dead and alive – in the music industry which is wonderful to read.

In a way, my view in this book is akin to that when you go back after a while to a record that you rush out and buy and find a bit of a let-down, but as time goes on and you get a bit more used to it – perhaps appreciating the subtle change in sound that the band/singer has adopted – it becomes something of a classic. A bit like Strangeways Here We Come which I initially couldn’t bring myself to like, partly as it was The Smiths break-up album but mainly because there was a lack of killer jangly guitar tracks on it…..but after some nine months once I’d resigned myself to the fact the band wouldn’t be getting back together again I was able to listen without prejudice…..and it is now my favourite studio LP the band ever made.

I used to say that if I ever wanted to be stuck in a pub with two other folk just to listen to what they had to say it would have been Tony Wilson and Bill Drummond. I can pay Luke Haines no higher compliment than saying nowadays I’d love for him to be the replacement for Tony…..although I’ve a feeling that if that particular scenario was to arise it wouldn’t take too long before Haines and Drummond were physically fighting with one another…and I abhor mindless violence!

The period covered by Post-Everything is mid 1997 – January 2006. An awful lot happens to Luke Haines in that period including unexpected chart success and being dropped more than once by one or other of his record labels. There’s a particularly brilliant chapter about the demise of Hut Records and the devious plot that was hatched to get one final wad of money from the bosses under which old songs were re-recorded and sneaked through as back-catalogue. The result was the fantastically titled Das Capital : The Songwriting Genius of Luke Haines And The Autuers. And in typical style, not only was it old songs given lush orchestral arrangements, there were a handful of new tunes to enjoy. Seems appropriate to go with some stuff from Das Capital today:-

mp3 : Luke Haines – How Could I Be Wrong
mp3 : Luke Haines – Lenny Valentino
mp3 : Luke Haines – Satan Wants Me

Enjoy

READ IT IN BOOKS : LUKE HAINES (1)

LHBadVibes

A bit pressed for time just now, but no apologies for this re-posting from January 2009. It follows-on nicely from yesterday’s effort:-

There’s been a substantial number of good reviews about this book…..and here’s another one coming.

For those of you who don’t know, Luke Haines first came to fame as a member of The Autuers, before later making records under his own name, as well as a member of Baader Meinhoff and Black Box Recorder. The fact that first chart success coincided with the rise of a few other UK bands at a time when American bands and grunge was the dominant force. This led to Mr Haines, along with the likes of Brett Anderson of Suede, to be christened as the founding-fathers of Britpop….

But this bio, which covers 1992 -1997, makes it quite clear that Luke Haines had very no time or most of his peers. Indeed, an anecdote that pre-dates The Autuers has the author admitting and illustrating that he has always had an arrogant and cocky attitude, an astounding sense of self-importance and a massive ego. But he argues that he had the talent which justified all of this and therefore has every right to be so dismissive of those in the music industry whom he felt had little or no ability.

There’s a very long roll-call of folk who really do get it with both barrels within the 243 pages, some of them being heroes of mine that I have long loved and admired (e.g. Matt Johnson of The The). Sometimes I was wincing as I read a particularly barbed paragraph, but mostly I was nodding in agreement, or indeed laughing out loud.

By the end of the book, I had no doubt in my mind that Luke Haines is someone who cares passionately about music, but has no time not for the music industry or those who service it. Some of his best passages are about journalists, and he takes great pleasure in some of the things said about him over the years. For instance, one scathing reviewer in Melody Maker thought they were insulting him by describing him as the new Nick Lowe, little realising that for Luke Haines, that was just about as big a compliment he could be given.

One of the other things the book reminded me of was how few Britpop singles went to #1 and how the very highest echelons of the pop charts were as rank rotten during this so-called golden era as they are now – Mr Blobby, 2 Unlimited, Take That, Mariah Carey, East 17 and Robson & Jerome are among the acts that hit the top spot. And what Luke Haines has written has got me thinking just how much of Britpop will be truly remembered in 20 or 30 years time outwith Blur, Pulp, Suede and Oasis (and of course, the first two of these bands had been around for a few years before the actual movement).

I don’t agree with every word that is in the book as I reckon a number of the acts that Luke rails against had some talent. In the introduction, our esteemed author makes it quite clear that he wishes things had turned out differently, and while there’s a lot of bitterness, the vitriol and poison is laced with too much humour, much of it self-deprecating, for the book to leave any lingering bad taste. Indeed in his intro, the author makes it clear the he didn’t set out on an exercise in score settling – although he also acknowledges that the casual reader may have every reason to beg differ – and that what he has written is very much what he thought at the time, not necessarily what he thinks now. Nor does he bear any ill towards the people and characters in the book…..although I think that might just be stretching things a bit far.

I’m guessing that most folk who pop into TVV consider themselves fairly serious music fans. Well, I reckon every serious music fan would enjoy devouring Bad Vibes on first reading, and then a few weeks later will be more than happy to read it again….it’s a real early highlight of 2009.

Oh and it also made me want to go back and listen to some of the great music he’s made over the years:-

mp3 : The Auteurs – How Could I Be Wrong (1993)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Lenny Valentino (single version) (1994)
mp3 : The Auteurs – Unsolved Child Murder (live on French Radio) (1996)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – England Made Me (1998)
mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Andrew Ridgeley (2003)
mp3 : Luke Haines – Leeds United (2007)

Enjoy