Album Review: British Nuclear Bunkers by Luke Haines
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
PopMatters - 80 Based on rating 8/10
A hallucinogenic fairy tale titled Rock and Roll Animals, about an anthropomorphized Nick Lowe, Gene Vincent, and Jimmy Pursey respectively taking the form of a badger, cat, and fox. A “mythic re-imagining of the New York Rock ‘n’ Roll scene 1972 – 1979” that begins with a bird named Chico whispering the lyrics to Television’s “Little Johnny Jewel” into the ear of protagonist Cerne Abbus Giant, who is in fact a giant. 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early ’80s.
“This is an emergency broadcast from the BBC. Information of a possible nuclear strike against this country has been received. ” Having spent much of his solo career excavating Britain’s recent past – Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop‘s salute to a ’70s childhood, the self-explanatory Nine And A Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s – Luke Haines here envisages a near future, where the population has retreated into a subterranean network of bunkers, which is illustrated almost wordlessly and performed wholly on analogue synthesisers.
The follow-up to the ex-Auteurs/Black Box Recorder frontman's New York in the '70s, the sex, drugs, and rock & roll-fueled third chapter in a psych-folk trilogy that began in 2011 with an LP focused solely on the heyday of British wrestling, 2015's British Nuclear Bunkers once again finds Haines exploring a very specific topic, but dispensing with the urban troubadour approach in favor of a more voltaic disposition. Inspired by the discovery of a Camden Borough-controlled nuclear bunker near his home, Haines began fiddling with his arsenal of analog synthesizers (most notably a mid-'70s Octave-designed monophonic/duophonic beast called The Cat), and before long had conjured what would ultimately become the album's brooding title cut, an icy and largely instrumental (the only lyric is "Maximum electronic rock and roll") mood piece that boasts an equally vexing video featuring Haines assuming various yoga positions while somebody in a gorilla suit makes fresh-squeezed lemonade. In fact, the majority of British Nuclear Bunkers is delivered sans traditional vocals (heavy instances of ominous vocoder, yes), resulting in his most Krautrock-esque and least blatantly sardonic outing to date.
Luke Haines is incapable of making an album without an over-arching theme. No matter though. If it takes a squad of British wrestlers, dementia, or a US city to prompt a record, so be it. The results are always interesting – and British Nuclear Bunkers, about exactly that (albeit those in the future), is a suitable addition to his, excuse the pun, arsenal.