As soundtracks go, this is a killer. The film hasn’t been released at the time of writing, but this album appears three weeks before the release of Luke Haines’ next album; a double helping then, with The Oliver Twist Manifesto. Both albums feature the first track from Christie Malry’s…, the punky Discomania.
Not since The Auteurs‘ Your Gang Our Gang on How I Learned To Love The Bootboys have we heard Haines snarl in that high pitched, terror-inducing voice over the top of rough-n-ready guitars. A terrific opener then, leading into… In The Bleak Midwinter. Yes, that one. With a choir. Additional noises from Haines – “God is Dead – I’m the King of the World” being one of the more memorable – are plastered over the top of this most bizarre of additions; one occasionally has to remind one’s self that we are listening to a soundtrack, which goes some way to excusing such an inclusion.
It also explains why this is probably the most musically diverse album Haines has so far made. Some critics have said that it isn’t on a par with his last – Black Box Recorder‘s The Facts of Life – but in truth it is a very different beast; the two are difficult to compare. Punky guitars and church choirs aside, we have essentially Krautrock with Ledger and Discomaniax, but Essex Mania is even more of a surprise – it is a credible attempt at techo-fluff. Clearly a grand-scale piss-take, it lasts over six minutes and conjures ’80s visions dancing around handbags and wearing stilettos. What’s truly worrying is that Haines did this track himself. He actually sounds like a disco diva. Be afraid.
Another cover version comes in the shape of I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass, with a bassline which sounds too similar to that on Lemon Jelly‘s The Staunton Lick but it is executed brilliantly.
Quite how accessible Haines’ music is will remain an open debate; when he puts a picture of himself on an album sleeve children will run away, but when, in that picture, he carries a blackboard featuring the legend ART WILL SAVE THE WORLD you really do have to wonder. An even scarier photo is inside, Haines portrayed in black and white looking evil and typing a note on an ancient typewriter, for all the world like a sinister Charles Gray from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The subsequent note, LUKE HAINES in account with THEM is included too – a list of his pet hates, labelled DEBIT – AGGRAVATION fills one side, with CREDIT – RECOMPENSE listing only the album title and artist. It is egotistical and arrogant, yes, especially as one of the items listed under Aggravation is “the Great British Public; a nation of Blue Peter presenters”. Even Napoleon Bonaparte could not seethe so effectively about the British; but he didn’t come from Leamington Spa.
Ultimately, though, he gets away with it. We live in an age where pop music is little more than a marketing exercise. We need terrorists like Luke Haines more now than ever before. He knows it; and doesn’t mind that we know it. I would say “more, please” – but The Oliver Twist Manifesto has already been delivered in anticipation of such a requirement. Don’t you just love him?