Release Date: Jul 29, 2013
Record label: Cherry Red
The darker, more nefarious cousin to Harry Nilsson's affable, animated acid trip The Point, Rock & Roll Animals finds Luke Haines (the Auteurs, Black Box Recorder, Baader-Meinhof) constructing a rock & roll fairy tale for adults and putting the finishing touches on his transition from capricious Brit-pop page boy to goateed, Dickensian agitator in an ice cream-white suit. The story follows a trio of typically idiosyncratic leads in Jimmy Pursey the fox, Gene Vincent the wise old cat, and a badger called Nick Lowe, as they battle a particularly ugly duck. Hijinks ensue, pop culture tropes are celebrated and skewed, and Haines, who opts for a decidedly more folksy approach than on previous offerings -- 2010’s self-explanatory Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early '80s notwithstanding -- can barely conceal his love and contempt for it all.
The author of Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall was never likely to join the lucrative nostalgia circuit, but former Auteur Luke Haines's idiosyncratic output continues to bewilder and bedazzle. His 18 previous albums in various guises have taken in "terrorist funk" and songs about the Yorkshire Ripper. Now, Rock and Roll Animals is a psychedelic story about rock'n'roll for grownups.
Once upon a time there was a surly misanthrope named Luke Haines: his music was celebrated across the land as a revelatory new national genre, soon to be known far and wide as the proud art of Britpop. Things didn't stay peachy for long: before anybody knew what was really going on, Haines was kicked to the curb by groups of sickeningly glamorous, gristle-headed young men with better hair, better hooks and a bunch of shit songs about bin men, wallpaper and some bird called Sally who knew it was too late. With the superficial commercialism behind him, Haines quietly proceeded to utterly destroy the artistic integrity of those same contemporaries who stole his thunder.
You can always rely on Luke Haines to produce the unexpected. Be it a concept album about wrestling, a blisteringly funny memoir about his time as the misfit of the Britpop years or even starkly entitling a ‘Best Of’ as Luke Haines Is Dead, the former The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder frontman is a master of the maverick. Rock And Roll Animals revels in that perverse streak of Haines.
You can call former Auteurs frontman Luke Haines whatever you like – and many do – but “predictable” just won’t stick. Following his razor-sharp yet affectionate look at 70s British wrestling comes this: a folk comedy centred around a badger named Nick Lowe, a fox named Jimmy Persey and a cat named Gene Vincent. Read that back if you like, it won’t make any more sense.
Luke Haines is one of English music’s true eccentrics. That was clear enough when he formed The Auteurs in the ’90s, but the 45-year-old has outdone himself with his latest solo effort. On ‘Rock N Roll Animals’, Haines has turned three musical icons (Sham 69’s Jimmy Pursey, songwriter/producer Nick Lowe and rock’n’roll legend Gene Vincent) into animals (a fox, a badger and a cat respectively).
When The Auteurs' debut New Wave landed in 1993, few would have predicted that twenty years later he'd release what is essentially a concept album for children involving a bunch of woodland animals. As ever with Luke Haines, though, there are plenty of twists, turns and concepts to take on board. In its own post-modern way, Rock And Roll Animals follows the lead of cartoons like The Simpsons, South Park and the hits of Jive Bunny in being ostensibly something children can enjoy while aimed as much at guffawing grown ups.
Luke Haines, one of the great but all too often overlooked songwriting talents of the last twenty years, is no stranger to the bizarre. His entire career, from arguably accidentally inventing Britpop with the brilliant New Wave in 1993, right up to his recent concept records about wrestling (9 ½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early ‘80s) and Tony Allen-obsessed alternative history (The North Sea Scrolls) has been a macabre comedy of sorts seeing him hit the charts with a carefully constructed hit single (Black Box Recorder’s ‘The Facts Of Life’), watch his original band The Auteurs drown in a miasma of mid-‘90s mediocrity and even take a dive from a balcony that landed him in a wheelchair for the best part of a year. It’s all been imbued with one of Haines’ most evident talents – spinning a yarn.