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Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop by Luke Haines

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Reviewed on 21st October 2006.


Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop

By Luke Haines

It is 1993. Seattle is the centre of the musical universe and the Labour Party (RIP) has lost its fourth general election on the bounce. Nobody owns a mobile phone and Leeds United (RIP) are the best football team in England.

Two exciting young British guitar bands release strikingly original debut albums brimming with literate songwriting bravado and the weekly music press (RIP) pit them head-to-head as favourites to scoop the inaugural Mercury Music Prize...

Insignificant though it may seem today, the Auteurs vs Suede (RIP) media hype did at least kick a little life into a flaccid, flagging domestic scene. While the latter's eponymous prize-winner charged onwards to chart glory and the giddy excesses of Britpop (RIP), the already curmudgeonly Luke Haines took his bat and ball home and decided to play by his own rules.

Thirteen years, fifteen albums and no greatest hits package later comes 'Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop' - as withering a title in the current pop climate as 'New Wave' was in the year of grunge.

Now seemingly content to drop the various alter-egos (The Auteurs, Baader Meinhof, Black Box Recorder), Haines is still very much concerned with matters close to home and still brimming with bile. A misanthropic master of the put-down, 'Off My Rocker' finds him on imperious form and offers a timely reminder of his acerbic songwriting nous.

The opening hi-hat-heavy disco of the title track neatly sets the tone. It fizzes along with sequinned vim and vigour as Haines deadpans in the direction of the 'new rave' art-rock kids: "Can you feel the beating of my artless heart?" Er, that will be a 'no' then.

As on the chugging, almost painfully obvious pub-rock of 'The Heritage Rock Revolution', the music echoes Haines' thematic attempt to dissect the 1970s Britain of his childhood in the hope of throwing a little light on where we stand in 2006.

Similarly 'Freddie Mills Is Dead' sets bloody East End gang killings to a spaghetti western soundtrack while 'All The English Devils' breaks into a very un-Haines-like Charleston.

Of most interest to local ears though will be 'Leeds United', which frankly kicks the shit out of any other song ever written about our fair city. As any bad novelty football record should, it features cheesy crowd-cheering sound effects (surely not recorded at Elland Road in the last six months) over big, dumb sing-along choruses. Last time I checked though, Three Lions didn't use Brian Clough's brief spell as Leeds manager to explore the notoriety of Yorkshire's least favourite serial rapist son, Peter Sutcliffe, or accuse Jimmy Saville of being the Devil. It is just a shame it took a southerner to write it, an irony surely not lost on Haines.

I doubt by now he gives an Arctic Monkeys, but with a back catalogue of unearthed delights as long as his face it is about time Luke Haines received his second Mercury nomination next year. It means absolutely nothing, of course, and as the man himself recently pointed out: "25k, haven't those guys heard of inflation?"

But 'Off My Rocker...' merits recognition for the parting shot of 'Bad Reputation' alone, in which Haines shares a little solidarity with his own unsung musical heroes:

"Gary Glitter is a bad, bad man," he sings. "He's ruined the reputation of The Glitter Band."

Buy, buy, buy and educate your friends.



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 21st October 2006 at 14:15 Dave LMS wrote...

Buy, buy, buy and educate your friends

Take notice of this recommendation, because I will add my support to it - this record is one of the best I've heard this year. Buy.


On 8th November 2006 at 10:59 Anonymous 6125 wrote...

A good album indeed from Mr Haines however some of it sounds sort of samey if you aren't (god forbid) listening to the words and there have been two (ish) greatest hits packages...Das Capital (albeit rerecorded) and Luke Haines is Dead. I'll stop being a pedant now



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