Luke Haines: Rock and Roll Animals

lukehaines

IN SPRING 1993, the movement that would become BritPop was launched with a magazine cover piece proclaiming “Yanks Go Home!”, with hot new things of the day Suede trumpeted as the leaders of a new movement which included an unknown band named The Auteurs.

Auteurs mainman Luke Haines was none too pleased, not surprising really given that his band had precious little in common with Suede and their ilk other than being pretty good and handy with a tune.

Twenty years on, and Haines is still ploughing a decidedly individual furrow. It’s unlikely that there will be another record even remotely like Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals released this year.

Subtitled “a psychedelic story for grown-ups (and children)”, it imagines a fairytale world inhabited by rock stars Nick Lowe, Jimmy Pursey (formerly of late-70s punks Sham 69) and Gene Vincent.

So far so peculiar, but did I mention that these three rockers – or “Three Frenz” as one of the songs has it – are in the form of animals? Lowe a badger, Pursey a fox and Vincent a cat? And that the album is narrated by Julia Davis of Nighty Night and Hunderby fame?

Why, only Haines knows, but what is for certain is that with storybook concept albums being about as fashionable as mullets, it’s unlikely Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals is going to meet with much success.

Which is a shame, because beneath the bonkers theme there are some terrific songs and, as ever with Haines, great lyrics.

Opener Magic Town, with its talk of “getting rid of the scum”, boasts some memorable couplets (“We’re building a magic town, and you can help too, bring some scissors and bring some glue…”) and a quietly folky sound which sets the tone for the rest of the album. Other highlights are the closing couplet From Hersham to Heaven and Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals in Space.

From Hersham to Heaven features Vincent and Lowe helping Pursey to the pearly gates and contains the record’s best tune, while Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals in Space is a terrific set closer and rounds the story off perfectly.

It’s a nice idea and a curiously listenable album. Haines’ place in the pantheon of great English music eccentrics is assured.

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