Luke Haines is now fully ensconced in Luke Haines world…not that he was ever very far way. His streams of bizarre consciousness are often genuinely funny and never far away from chillingly apocalyptic – it’s Threads with gags. Given a lo-fi backing of thrumming, off-kilter electronic melodies, a guitar sound which was half-asleep during the summer of love, Luke’s cohorts on this album are Peter Buck and Julian Barrett, which probably tells you as much as anything about the strange road you’ve found yourself on.
Whilst opener, “Ex-Stasi Spy” is a little more throw-back to previous album, ‘Beat Poetry for Survivalists’ than the other tracks, the rest line-up like a glorious musical freak show. “U Boat Baby” is pure glam, a nod to Luke’s love of The Sweet and friends, a zinging guitar, clattering drums and is one of the most strident tracks he’s written in years. From beneath the waves to the North West, “Never Going Back to Liverpool” recalls a poor reception he received in the city, now populated in his mind by Psychedelic Derek selling cosmic meat and blow. “When I Owned the Scarecrow” isn’t a metaphor, it’s tucked under his arm as he buys a pound of butter from the farm shop. Musically, we’re in more familiar territory to Luke’s more recent solo work – plaintive guitar, recorders and a stately meander. So, yeah, that’s the token normal track.
“Ivor on the Bus” is Luke’s tribute to Ivor Cutler whom he did indeed regularly spy on the bus…imagine hopping on and seeing the pair of them, you’d wonder if they really were cornflakes you’d eaten earlier. It could be whimsical – a lot of times when describing Luke’s work, it’s easy for that to be the impression you’re giving but it’s really not the case. Is resolutely straight-faced and heart-felt, indeed, when Ivor’s own voice enters the track it’s difficult not to feel a little misty-eyed. Luke Haines offers no concessions as to whether you understand the references or believed him, you’ve hopped on his planet and like it or lump it.
With that in mind, you’re confronted with suicide pact gourds (“Yes, Mr Pumpkin”); an ode to avant-garde poet and film-maker, Shuji Terayama (“Two Japanese Freaks Talking About Mao and Nixon”) and “Andrea Dworkin’s Knees” in the song of the same name. It always feels like there’s a Luke Haines track somewhere in his expansive solo discography which is destined to breakout and go mainstream in a strange way. On a vacuum advert; the new theme to Mastermind; covered by some oik on The Voice. We can only wish that the rest of the world is dragged kicking and screaming into this weirdly loveable, peculiar land where real life is rendered even more absurd than it is.
Buy the album here from Cherry Red