Luke Haines – 21st Century Man
4) Luke Haines – 21st Century Man
It’s been something of a triumphant year for former Auteurs mastermind Luke Haines. First up was his hilarious Milligan-esque Britpop memoir Bad Vibes, then the live return of his softcore pop dreamscape project Black Box Recorder. Then, to cap it all, he comes up with his most diabolically coherent album since The Facts Of Life.
“I’ll live forever – I will never ever move / to leave this place will be the last thing that I do”, he sings, in his trademark broken glass croon, on album opener Suburban Morning. A child goes missing, but is found alive. The suburban people – the chosen ones – cross themselves in thanks, move on, get on, get married, and die natural deaths. Somehow, it’s scarier than Unsolved Child Murder.
His character songs are more, yet less reassuring. Klaus Kinski – a kindred spirit of Haines – is an acoustic & synth rumination on incest, boredom, and rage. The key lyrics “Only hope will kill you after all” and “don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story” (Klaus Kinski wrote an infamously fabricated autobiography) are both straight out of the Haines manifesto.
Given how fun it is to work out Haines’ true intentions, it’s actually the straightest songs that are the best. ‘Love Letter To London’ is a thirtysomething farewell to the bright lights of the naughty city, full of couples fleeing to the suburban idyll – “They said that they loved you but they used you as a playground when you were young”. ‘English Southern Man’ appears to claim that Guildford is the new Jerusalem, and that Surrey is the greatest place on earth. “A worth with no fear or worry / this is our land of milk and honey”. Does he mean it? “We are executive saloon car drivers / we are the real outsiders” Shit. Probably. Probably not. It’s tricky.
The answers, if there are any, appear on ’21st Century Man’, which is Luke Haines’ own personal We Didn’t Start The Fire. Covering every decade, from a childhood in front of Top Of The Pops and David Bowie losing it, he comes to Britpop: “What do you do when you’ve made your masterpiece / I was all over the nineties / I was all over I the nineties”. You wouldn’t get Damon Albarn singing that. He’s saying goodbye to one period, welcoming a next. “I’m going to die in the 21st Century”. Most of us are.
What’s brilliant and yet slightly tragic about Luke Haines is he’s a proper pop star – the match of a Kevin Rowland when it comes to humour, crafty self-referencing and myth making – in a post-pop star era. Proper, intelligent pop music doesn’t have any place in the cultural landscape any more; you suspect Mr Haines knows this, but doesn’t care. A situationist triumph.