Luke Haines – Rock and Roll Animals (Cherry Red)
CD/ LP/ DL
Eighteenth, and strangest yet, album from the man behind the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder and Baader Meinhof. Ged Babey is baffled and seduced.
If you only know of Luke Haines from the Auteurs hit Lenny Valentino, which you have on a Britpop compilation somewhere … you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Best place to start would be the 3-CD Luke Haines Is Dead box-set with its brilliant Paul Morley essay and 63 tracks from 1992-2002, Phase One.
In recent years Luke has trod a singular path, going Off his Rocker at the Art School Bop, writing a psychedelic concept album about wrestling in the 70’s as well as penning a couple of great biographies.
I may as well let Luke explain his latest album, as it would sound ridiculous coming from me, and you’ll think I’ve gone barking mad, which Luke Haines quite possibly has…
Rock and Roll Animals is a psychedelic story for grown-ups (and children). Jimmy Pursey is a frisky fox; Nick Lowe, a solid badger and Gene Vincent, a cat who’s seen a bit more of life than most of us. Three furry freaks. Three Rock and Roll animals. The fable of our four-pawed shamen is narrated by the good folk of Magic Town.
This is a story of righteous rock n roll and how our three rock n roll animal friends, when not frolicking in the undergrowth, do battle with their most unrighteous nemesis, a fuck ugly bird (from Tyneside) made of steel and wire called The Angel Of The North.
Last years The North Sea Scrolls collaboration saw Haines singing about Enoch Powell, Space Poet taking part in It’s A Knockout in a team made up of Gong, the Pink Faries and the Groundhogs against the Cast of On The Buses and Mosleys Front Bench. He lives, it seems in a surreal parallel universe does our Luke. Which, I guess is preferable to living in the nightmarish reality of Britain today with its cunts, pricks, wankers and shits in every possible position of power and authority.
There is no clever analogy in the story of the animals, just Haines usual obsessions with the Seventies, Britishness and his Dada-ist approach to dark comedy, woven into insidious tunes.
Its not particlarly Rock and Roll either, semi acoustic guitars and quite a bit of recorder-playing, harking back to 70’s schooldays yet again, with a touch of Morris Men folk.
On first listen, I just didn’t get it somehow. And I’m a big fan of the man. After the third listen , on a hot summer night, laying in the garden after a days mind-numbing, soul-destroying work (I have a proper job, I don’t get paid for this shit…) it clicked. There is nothing to get. Its just a silly, pointless, psychedelic story like a weird dream where you wake up and think where did all that come from?
Luke Haines was born in Walton on Thames and Pursey, Lowe and Gene Vincent all have connections with the place. Quite why the Angel of The North is their adversary I don’t know. “God Bless the great North/South Divide” sings Haines at one point.
The comedy actress Julia Davis narrates the story and provides the two dual highpoints of the album; Her impression of Jimmy Pursey saying “Who’s got a dirty face then?” to the fuck-ugly bird; Then the part where Jimmy asks if they’re going back to Hersham to be told ” No Jim, we’re going to Heaven” which brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye every single time (Big girls blouse, its only a story).
Luke Haines always said he wanted the Auteurs to be like the Modern Lovers and in a way there is a childlike naivety to Rock and Roll Animals which recalls Jonathan Richmans songs about insects & dinosaurs & ice-cream, only with Haines voice and back-catalogue of songs about child-murder and the Red Army Faction there’s always a hint of something more sinister beneath… or perhaps not. He does seem to be far more good-humoured than in the past. Maybe its due too hanging out with Art Bruts Eddie Argos, maybe he’s had kids and its mellowed him?
He guides us through which rock’n’roll is and is not righteous too. Deep Purple are, Led Zep are not. “The Stones without Brian Jones were not righteous even though he was probably evil” he sings but both pre and post Robert Wyatt Soft Machine were, of course, righteously cool. There is a distinct simillarity here between Haines and Billy Childish who’s Story of Pop on his latest album does a simillar seperation of the pearls from the swine.
Luke Haines is still the man who wrote the most disturbing chorus in any pop song ever though. “Life is unfair. Kill yourself or get over it”. (Black Box Recorders non-hit Child Psychology) He is still the man who, in song, maintained that Gary Glitter was a bad, bad man, mainly because he ruined the reputation of the Glitter Band.
He is still one of Englands most fascinating, funny and out-on-his-own songwriters and OK, maybe this isn’t his finest work but its a pleasantly surreal album to chill-out to, and an album for anyone and everyone who has lost faith in rock’n’roll really having anything original and worthwhile to say and just wants to ‘Trip the fuck-out’ and “use their 21st Century Imagination” to discover new worlds, which turn out to be an adult version of Teletubby Land.
All words by Ged Babey. More work by Ged on Louder Than War can be found here.