Album Review: Luke Haines – Smash The System

Smash The System
Luke Haines

Former Auteurs frontman Luke Haines has had a varied career. As part of his former band he was responsible for some of the best albums of the nineties, including (in my opinion) his finest work to date ‘After Murder Park’. As a solo artist he has created a series of conceptual albums. His last release was a collection of dark electronic and mostly instrumental tracks exploring a post apocalyptic Britain. Not an obvious move from the writer of such huge indie anthems as ‘Lenny Valentino’ and ‘Showgirl’. But Haines has never done what has been expected of him, and rarely would you find him singing a straight forward love song. Instead, more likely to hear songs about murder and terrorism.

‘Smash The System’ is his latest release, and is released on Cherry Red Records on October 7th. For his latest project, he has come up with his most shocking album yet. It’s an album that is (wait for it)…not a concept album. In doing so he has had the freedom to release a more versatile album. And he’s really taken that idea and gone at it running. Throughout its twelve tracks, Haines has thrown in multiple ideas, using folk (The Incredible String Band), indie (Smash The System), electronic sounds, and at one point  (Power Of The Witch) almost a rap record. All of it is tied together with Haines’ rare and imaginative talent as a lyricist. Just looking at the lyrics, there could only be one man behind them.

‘Smash The System’ draws from all his previous projects. ‘Black Bunny’ takes the electronic sound from ‘British Nuclear Bunkers’ whilst there are still are still the more guitar-lead tracks that stand closer to his Auteurs days, complete with his trademark handclaps. Haines has always been able to create beautiful and simple acoustic tracks to contrast those with more production. ‘Bomber Jacket’ has the same subtle beauty that he has captured in the past with tacks such as ‘Kenneth Anger’s Bad Dream’ and ‘Daughter Of A Child’. Leading single ‘Marc Bolan Blues’ is different to anything he has done before. His tribute to the seventies glam-rock legend takes on the fuzzy electric guitars that would sit comfortably in an old T-Rex record, but with Haines’ sound added. It was difficult to know on first hearing where it would fit into an album, but when listened to as part of the complete piece, it fits in perfectly.

Luke Haines has been in the game for a long time. He makes bold choices and takes risks. The concepts he has taken on board have worked to different degrees, but it’s those risks that have kept him relevant, and kept his fan base loyal. There is no second guessing what he will do next, and that’s the sign of an artist who’s first priority is to make creative, interesting music. Whilst the concepts of previous albums have put him where he is, this is an album that shows who he is an an artist more than anything he has put out in a while. In fact I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that ‘Smash The System’ is his best album since ‘After Murder Park’.

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