Thursday, 31 May 2018

Album of the Month: I SOMETIMES DREAM OF GLUE by Luke Haines

Luke Haines went insane in 2010. (Understand, please, that I use the word 'insane' affectionately.) This was the year when he stopped fooling around with whatever passes for normal and released Outsider Music which was 50 copies of him performing the same set of songs fifty different times. That same year, I wrote a crazy wish in some shoddy blog post I hope has long been washed away by the Internet; basically, I expressed a wish for Luke Haines to release a new album each year. 

Little did I know.

- 2011: concept album on British wrestling.
- 2012: concept album telling an alternative history of Great Britain.
- 2013: concept album about Gene Vincent, Nick Lowe and Jimmy Pursey imagined as a cat, a badger and a fox.
- 2014: concept album on the New York music of the 70s.
- 2015: concept album about secret nuclear bunkers in the city of London.
- 2016: non-concept album, miraculously.
- 2017: nothing, although you did get to hear five songs from the aborted Property musical released as the fourth part of his solo box set.
- 2018: concept album called I Sometimes Dream of Glue.

(Note that I did not include a mini-opera on Screwdriver and Mark E. Smith, an electronic album released as part of a music magazine and 75 copies of another one-off project titled Raving.)

I would say be careful what you wish for - but, truth be told, I loved pretty much all of them. I was a bit critical of New York in the '70s back when it was released (citing some slight lack of substance) and I still do not believe that British Nuclear Bunkers will go down in history as a Haines classic, but I would argue that outside Robert Forster, Luke Haines is the world's greatest living songwriter.

And he is raving mad. 

I Sometimes Dream of Glue (has to be a reference to Robyn Hitchcock's I Often Dream of Trains) tells the story of an imaginary English town inhabited by people as tall as a blade of grass. These small people are horny mutants who spend most of their time having sex and dreaming of Airfix glue. The story also involves the second world war and is quite possibly some clever allegory on modern Britain that I would not advise to take too close to heart. 

The album clocks in under 30 minutes, and is basically folk music with a morbid lyrical edge. This folk music ranges from beautiful to ugly (although it's worth remembering that the whole point of Luke Haines is to make ugly sound beautiful). The second part of "She Was Ripe As A Meadow" could well be lifted directly from Rock and Roll Animals, but the wild shrieking of the seagulls brings the inevitable sense of unease. No, this is not a record to be played for your children. This is fucking dark stuff. 

And the songs, albeit short (the hardest rocking "At It With The Tree Surgeons Wife" is barely three minutes long, and it's the longest piece here), are still timeless. It is just that they are of a lesser scope than the ones that - and Luke Haines would probably hate me for this - were part of 21st Century Man. Apart from the infectious single "Everybody's Coming Together For The Summer", I count three all-time Haines classics: "Angry Man On Small Train", "Oh Michael" and "We Could Do It". If you manage to stay mute to the lyrics, you might consider marrying these songs - they are that beautiful. 

Instrumentally, this is Luke Haines playing everything. Mostly acoustic guitars, but there are flutes, harmoniums, recorders and even a few colourful flashes of the electric guitar (second part of "Everybody's Coming Together" is quite notable). In fact, my absolute favourite moment on the album comes one minute into "I Fell In Love With An 00 Scale Wife" that has a line 'I did it, man...' followed by this heavy wailing electric guitar sound which literally comes out of nowhere.

Ever since my vinyl arrived, I Sometimes Dream of Glue has proved to be a wildly addictive album for me. It's that sizzling combination of beautiful and bizarre that I value above everything in art. And you get it here in its purest form. After all, it is easy to be this mad eccentric once in a while, and it is quite a different matter when you do it every year and you do not even have to try. We are fortunate to have this man.