Release Date: May 26, 2014
Record label: Cherry Red
For the final instalment in what has been described as a “psychedelic trilogy” the architect of The Auteurs moves away from the smokey working men’s club rough-housing of 9 ½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ‘80s, sidesteps the anthropomorphic countryside romps of last year’s wonderful Rock n’ Roll Animals and veers way across the Atlantic to perhaps the most intangibly desirable time and place in the current collective consciousness. What he does when he gets there is precisely what you’d hope from the author of “The Rubettes” and “Unsolved Child Murder” – he seeks out his musical heroes and heroin(e)s and takes them on a peculiarly English trip to the underbelly of their existence. Clear of his intention Haines begins with “Alan Vega Says”, populated with eerie chimes, strange vibrations, synth chills and programmed churns.
Luke Haines’ love of bygone times always tints his music: be it wrestling, militant groups or disco, the thrust has always been a lyrical one. His last album, Rock & Roll Animals, demanded listeners disappear York Dolls – the musical backing (drones, repetitive keyboard rhythms and discordant guitar) fits perfectly with the era he’s documenting. Jim Carroll charts the addled life of the NY poet and musician and is hilarious in its cartoonlike nature, as is UK Punk’s cross referencing of Sun Ra.
Luke Haines has been delighting, bewildering and surprising listeners in equal measure for more than 20 years now. Ever since finding success with The Auteurs and the band’s Mercury Prize-nominated debut album New Wave in 1993, Haines has consistently defied expectations and set himself apart from virtually everyone else around – whether it be with a band such as Black Box Recorder or on his own. However, the serial frontman – who is also handy with a pen in hand, as shown by his two published books – is arguably at his most unique when going solo.
Luke Haines has made a career out of being an outsider. It’s a fact that even a non-fan can gauge by simply reading the title of his second memoir, Post-Everything: Outsider Rock ‘n’ Roll. He has also been a faithful mythologizer, in more recent years applying this skill to specific cultural icons and moments rather than on himself. Haines’ last two solo albums, comprising the “psychedelic trilogy” which ends with New York in the ‘70s, have concerned themselves with British wrestlers (2011’s 9 ½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early ‘80s), and recasting Gene Vincent, Nick Lowe, and Sham 69 frontman Jimmy Pursey as a cat, a badger, and a fox, respectively (2013’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals).
After two decades picking over Britain’s cultural memory, ‘New York In The ’70s’ sees Auteurs and Black Box Recorder man Luke Haines revive an obsession with the Big Apple that dates right back to The Auteurs’ single ‘Chinese Bakery’, in 1994. Its portraits of downtown legends like Lou Reed and Alan Vega are far more affectionate than much of his scabrous output, with music that flits between dreamy Velvets simplicity and the synthetic throb of Suicide. Haines’ genius breaks through in the Blakean visions of ‘Cerne Abbas Man’ and ‘NY Stars’, which marry America’s “mythic muthafuckin’ rock’n’roll” to England’s past via his own career as mischievous pop irritant.Stuart Huggett .