2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the release of New Wave, the debut The Auteurs album that was nominated for a Mercury Prize and was (probably misguidedly, in retrospect) hailed as one of the first proponents of Britpop. In the years since, Luke Haines has kept himself busy, whether it be with a further three albums with The Auteurs, an actual Top 20 hit with Black Box Recorder, and a hilariously scabrous memoir.
It’s his solo career that’s arguably been the most intriguing though, as you genuinely have no idea what you’re going to get. It could be a collaboration with pop maverick Richard X, or it could be an album of children’s songs narrated by woodland creatures, or it could be a record heavily inspired by the late ’70s NYC art-punk scene of Lou Reed and Alan Vega.
Or, in the case of I Sometimes Dream Of Glue, it could be a concept album about a fictional town called Glue Town, which had 10 tonnes of experimental solvent liquid dumped upon it after the war, which resulted in the town’s 500 residents shrinking to a height of two and a half inches, “living on a diet of solvent abuse and permanent horniess”, while cult children’s TV show Michael Bentine’s Potty Time plays on a permanent loop.
As with every Luke Haines album, this is not an album to casually dip into for a bit of background music. This is more like a novel than an album, with macabre characters, surreal situations and strange little stories all narrated by Haines. Musically, it’s folky and summery, but as ever with Haines, there’s an ever-present edge of menace always lurking.
So we start with the tale of the Angry Man On A Small Train where the “ticket inspector is half an inch tall” and there’s a man ranting about hanging and Brunel. Musically, it’s almost pastoral, with plenty of flutes, acoustic guitars and strings in attendance, but once you pick up on the lyrics, it adds a whole new level to these songs.
As the inhabitants of Glue Town lead an existence entirely dependent on casual sex and solvent abuse, there’s a slightly sleazy air hanging over the album. At It With The Tree Surgeon’s Wife is as it sounds, a song worthy of prime Jarvis Cocker which sees Haines’ character having an affair with a tree surgeon’s wife (who was “a busty surprise”, no less), and Everybody’s Coming Together (For The Summer) is literally a song about a town of miniature people having an orgy, and is as unhinged as that sounds.
It’s impossible not to laugh out loud at Subbuteo Lads, all about a gang of Subbuteo figures (who are “as cocky as arseholes”) on a hooligan rampage, while Fat Bird From The Woodcraft Folk has the priceless line “she may weigh a ton but she can track a deer”. These sort of moments are a bit reminiscent of Half Man Half Biscuit, if they ever decided to move into pastoral country folk.
By the time closing track We Could Do It rolls around, you’ll probably be unsure whether Haines is totally committed to these characters or whether he’s just a bit unhinged, but producing an album like this is certainly more appealing than taking the easy cash of a 25-year anniversary tour. This may not be an album you’d revisit often, but we should be very glad that it, and its unique, maverick creator, exists.