Release Date: Nov 7, 2011
Record label: Fantastic Plastic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
In 2003, Luke Haines – singer-songwriter, sometime author, former Auteurs frontman and one-third of Black Box Recorder – announced that it was time to change his misanthropic public persona. "People often mistake me for an incredibly miserable person," complained the author of Unsolved Child Murder, How to Hate the Working Classes and Satan Wants Me. "I'm not completely reactionary.
“Has Luke Haines lost his mind?” asks the press release. “Yes”, it declares proudly. He has recorded Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ‘80s. This is not the first atypical move in Haines’ career. His memoirs chart the combination of bad ….
Reviewing a Luke Haines release is destined to put the critic at a disadvantage. No matter the magnitude of praise heaped upon it, we will never deem a release as ingenious as the mastermind behind the Auteurs and co-mastermind behind Black Box Recorder does. When the critic is an American, the disadvantages are even greater: as deft a songwriter as Haines is (and he’s one of the deftest that ever existed), there is no way most of us can fully relate to the 1970s UK working class experience.
It would be fair to say that a concept album about the heyday of British wrestling is going to have a rather select audience; it's doubtful that many people under thirty will have any idea of who its cast of characters are, or indeed any interest in finding out. But then, going by Luke Haines' curmudgeonly reputation, and status as the perennial dark-horse/prince of Britpop, he probably likes it that way. In fact, this isn't the first time that Haines has appropriated the sport for his music – Black Box Recorder's debut came with an image of 'exotic' wrestler Adrian Street on the cover and his 2006 album Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop referenced faux-Japanese wrestler Kendo Nagasaki.
A work of art about the ordinary person’s ability to reinvent themselves. Garry Mulholland 2011 On YouTube you’ll still find footage of the ceremonial unmasking of Kendo Nagasaki. A relic from the days when British wrestling formed a Saturday afternoon working-class ritual through ITV’s World of Sport, it involves a legendary wrestler who never spoke in public, his manager Gorgeous George, a pair of spooky contact lenses and the warm admiration of the crowd at the Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
That age brings wisdom is a given but with advancing years comes the realisation of the inevitability of mortality. Indeed, since the passing of this writer's parents within three years of each other, childhood is a destination that has been sought for a sense of security as well as being a place that holds some kind of answers to unlock the mysteries of identity. But, as evidenced by this, the latest solo release by Luke Haines, the formative years hold as much terror, pain and unpleasantness as anything encountered in adult life.