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Luke Haines, Borderline | reviews, news & interviews

Luke Haines, Borderline

Luke Haines, Borderline

Ex-Auteur presents a new concept album with songs as finely honed as his fan base

Mr Rock and Roll: the shady Luke Haines

This one-off appearance in a dingy, basement venue seems to be the entirety of Luke Haines’s promotional effort for his new album, Rock and Roll Animals. A few years have passed since he approached mainstream success as front man of The Auteurs and later as part of Black Box Recorder. In the intervening years he has taken the healthy notion that quality does not equal popularity to a possibly illogical conclusion that popularity had better be avoided entirely, just in case.

Luckily for the enlightened few he has carried on making albums, increasingly esoteric in subject matter but which, given a chance, disgorge nugget after chunk of solid songwriting gold. Sure, his 2011 album Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early '80s, for instance, might as well be called Don’t Listen to This, It’s Not for You and You Won’t Like It – but if you open your ears, all it’s saying is, "Ok, the idiots have gone now, let’s get down to business."

Let’s not go into what Rock and Roll Animals is all about. I don’t trust myself to make it sound anything other than quirky, when it’s really much better than that. It’s a collection of songs by one of the best songwriters around. If you like songs – and not just the sound they make – it is for you and you will like it.

He found a perfect balance between being committed to the material while not taking anything too seriously

Haines was performing alone, on an acoustic guitar, with occasional embellishments from a miniature Casio keyboard and a jingle-free tambourine gaffer-taped to guitar stand. Lo-fi. He arrived on stage and put on a pair of rock 'n' roll sunglasses – literally a pair of shades with the words Rock and Roll written on the lenses – and played around two-thirds of the new album. Bearing in mind it had only been released the day before, it will have been the first hearing for a fair few in the audience, but it went down very well.

For someone with a reputation for being curmudgeonly, even misanthropic, Haines was a witty and genial host, and found – as he always does – a perfect balance between being committed to the material while not taking anything too seriously. A fair few laughs were raised along the way from the small crowd of middle-aged fans, especially when he entered story-telling mode. (As a side note, the audio book version of his memoir Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall is well worth a listen as his delivery makes an already funny book even better.)

Along with the title track of the new album (watch the video overleaf), "Gene Vincent" stands out as probably the most immediate song, with its catchy chorus about "the rock 'n' roll mums and the rock 'n' roll dads" working as a neat hook for the psychedelic imaginings surrounding it. "Angel of the North" was also memorable, which its caustic appraisal of Anthony Gormley’s magnum opus somehow woven in to the story-arc of the album.

A few oldies also made the set, including "Showgirl" and "Lenny Valentino", bona fide hits from the early 1990s, when Haines would play to rowdy teenagers in rooms 10 times the size. If this system works for him, who are we to complain.

Watch the video for "Rock and Roll Animals" over the page

For someone with a reputation for being curmudgeonly, even misanthropic, Haines was a witty and genial host


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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