Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sweeping The Nation Albums Of 2006: Number 26

The Graham Greene look we've been waiting for him to pull off for years

That Luke Haines' lyrics drip with seethingness on his third proper solo album is expected. After, all, write about what you know, they say, and Haines has only known one thing for the last twelve years or so - savagely funny and funnily savage thoughts on the English, its sociologisms, its music and its hopes and fears. What's less appreciated is that by this stage he's recording entire albums in musical styles that can only be contained in large quotation marks. We've been here before, most notably on the fuzzy glam of the Auteurs' How I Learned To Love The Bootboys, but on Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop it's both his fullest musically inclined solo work and his most playful - piano-led music hall whimsy on All The English Devils, the odd Mick Ronson lick, the occasional ageing keyboard sound, even soft Italo-house on the title track (inevitably, Haines reckons it sounds like Girls Aloud, and when we ripped the track below it came up under the genre 'Reggae'). It increasingly seems he shares common ground with another singular very parochial talent, Lawrence Hayward when trading as Denim and Go-Kart Mozart - anti-retro retro, topics nobody else will touch, only doing things his own way or not at all. It's almost the cussed-mindedness of the operation that makes it so undeniable. Oh, and the songs.

So yes, he's still picking away at the scab of what was below the now accepted gaudy glam image of the 1970s, referencing The Walton Hop in terms of the work Jonathan King did there, Bad Reputation considering "the reputation of the Glitter Band" and in Leeds United keeping glam chant score ("a thirteen nil defeat") of the Yorkshire Ripper while namechecking the Vauxhall Viva and Kendo Nagasaki. Freddie Mills Is Dead throws around theories surrounding the death of the titular world light heavyweight champion and later Kray associate of the late 40s, one of which also gets a mention in Here's To Old England amid the registers of Englishness and its anti-'heroes' namechecked just as you'd expect Haines would ("lazy thugs, seaside resorts, hard drugs, holiday homes bought with Brinks Mat gold") And it wouldn't be Haines without caustic asides aimed squarely at everyone else, the title track's beyond ironic title backed up by The Heritage Rock Revolution, a pub rock quoting song probably not in heavy rotation on Mojo magazine's stereo. Haines' withering, jet-black heart is in working order, and we should all be glad.

LISTEN ON: Here's To Old England
WATCH ON: Off My Rocker... video; Leeds United live and acoustic at the Edinburgh Fringe
NOT WANTING TO BLOW OUR OWN TRUMPET, BUT...: Our Illustrated Guide to the man's pre-Bop work - all the mp3s are somehow still up, too

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