Perhaps in another hundred years Luke Haines will receive the recognition he’s craved/deserved/spurned outside of the dozen or so hacks and fans who‘ll praise a man who‘s rarely put a foot wrong; even when he broke both legs to avoid climbing the stage to perform for us. His one-time chance at the top with The Auteurs was short-lived, but the Haines name stuck throughout the 90’s and 00’s like a burr on pop music‘s back, with it being attached to his own solo work, side-projects and a film soundtrack. His ire and love of England undiminished.
Having released a comprehensive collection of rare/unavailable tracks from his varied career in Luke Haines is Dead, Haines’ resurrection in 2006 with Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop came a little too soon for this modern day Lazarus. Incredibly, 21st Century Man is his fifteenth album (counting Auteurs, Black Box Recorder, etc) and finds Haines at his most potent and memorable, like a commentator glancing back at the 20th century, stringing together disparate cultural ‘icons’ like Peter Hammill and Klaus Kinski, tongue firmly placed in cheek. In some ways it feels like it’s his most quintessential album. A man looking back over his own career, realising what worked, what didn’t and harnessing it.
“It’s the same old story we’ve heard before”, Haines begins, topically self-aware and never one to stray outside his comfort zone with the Satanists that lurk in “Suburban Mourning” and his recurrent themes of death and dying grimly given, yet cheerfully delivered. From “Peter Hammill” of Prog rockers Van Der Graaf Generator to “Klaus Kinski” (which manages to rhyme “lucky” with “fuck me”), Haines is still hot for the Glam Rock revival, culminating with the glitter band “Rock and Roll Part 2“ moon stomp of “Wot A Rotter“. The soft strummed “Love Letter To London” is Haine’s own “Waterloo Sunset” castigating those “who used you like a playground when they were young” and then fled to the suburbs to have children.
Stylistically 21st Century Man does feel like a quick whip-round the Haines back catalogue, with the Baader Meinhoff beats of “Our Man In Buenos Aires” making light of a miss-reported rumour that he’d departed England for another kind of paradise. As always, Haines saves the best, and most poignant moment till last with the epic autobiographical title track that farewells the 20th Century while namechecking the Rolling Stones and T-Rex. It’s a testament to Haine’s cultural recollection, the forgotten heroes of the past, and his self-effacing nature, “I was all over the 90’s/I was all over in the 90’s”. It’s not all over yet.