Luke Haines, Islington Academy, London

Islington Academy, London

Though he's renowned as one of pop's great curmudgeons, it's more accurate to see Luke Haines as a contrarian. He breaks out in a rash whenever the latest bandwagon comes rattling along and everyone else starts jumping on it. "Whatever it is, I'm against it," as he puts it. He probably has more in common with satire and music hall than with what we know as the "record business", and his stage attire of a trilby and a jacket at least one size too small guarantees that you're never going to mistake him for Chris Martin or Justin Hawkins. Moreover, few of our leading pop visionaries are likely to follow Haines' lead in drawing inspiration from the notorious Mitford sisters or the alleged last words of George V ("Bugger Bognor!"), and who else would risk going anywhere near the mercifully forgotten Rubettes in search of a hook line (Sugar Baby Love)?

But Haines doesn't care. He wears his obsessions with pride. Glam-rock seems to command a well-lit spot in his personal hall of fame ("Gary Glitter: he's a bad, bad man for sullying the reputation of the Glitter Band"). And what a shame a few more leading celebs don't learn from his example when he demonstrates how much can be gained from pursuing your pet hates, such as artist Sarah Lucas (The Death of Sarah Lucas) and disgraced entrepreneur Jonathan King, whose past life is recalled in the caustic ballad The Walton Hop.

You might argue that the chink in Haines' armour is that his lyrics overpower his music (he tends to appeal to critics because he makes sure they can hear his words clearly, even in a hall as acoustically questionable as the Islington Academy). Although he tries his hand at a spot of surging synth-pop in Satan Wants Me and occasionally gestures vaguely in the direction of the Teardrop Explodes, the message invariably lies in the words. The Heritage Rock Revolution, an instructive specimen, is an assault on ossified veteran rock'n'rollers that doesn't sound much more convincing than those it purports to ridicule.

Meanwhile, Haines has been working on a stage musical called Property. It could prove to be his perfect metier.


Adam Sweeting

The GuardianTramp

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