Elvis Costello once said Morrissey writes the best song titles in pop, but Luke Haines could easily mount a strong challenge for that title. His most recent opus is entitled 9 and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early 80s. Aside from all of this weirdness, Haines is a brilliant songwriter and a classic example of someone who slipped through the cracks. His band, The Auteurs, predated the Britpop explosion at a time when popular culture was either going grunge or acid house. Every band or solo project he's embarked on since has always been at least fascinating, if far from commercially successful. An evening with Haines is an ascerbic yet entertaining experience, as he splices spoken word with an acoustic set of songs culled from various points over his sprawling 17-album career. His two books of memoirs are suitably entitled Bad Vibes: Britpop and My Part in Its Downfall and Post Everything: Outsider Rock n' Roll. Haines doesn't so much read from these collections as spit out the words while lost deep in his own madness. If he wasn't such a compelling commentator, this would be an unsettling experience. But Haines's razor-sharp talent and wickedly bleak sense of humour keep it in the realm of entertainment rather than a car crash. He looks the epitome of a Britpop outsider in his pale suit and smart trilby, but his laconic delivery and oddball charm mark him as a man perpetually removed from the Damon Albarns, Liam Gallaghers and Brett Andersons of this world. Acoustic renditions of his most popular songs 'Showgirl' and 'Lenny Valentino' are a reminder of a time when Haines almost threatened to eclipse them. Haines has another odd habit of stopping midway through a song to correct a lyric or verse. Again, this is something most performers would never get away with, but he makes it work. He ducks into another spoken word set before a closing brace of songs culminating in his 2007 single 'Leeds United'. Sadly, Haines doesn't bother gracing us with an encore. Knowing him, he probably regards such conventions as tiresomely predictable. eamon sweeney
Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop, Luke Haines is Dead and the bewildering 2004 release The State Funeral of Winston Churchill (still unreleased as of July 2011) are just three more bonkers examples.