Ok, so I must start by declaring that I am a huge admirer of the music of Luke Haines, and I have enjoyed all his incarnations - from The Auteurs, through to his solo work, via Baader Meinhof and Black Box Recorder. Another point to bear in mind is that I have an enormous affection for UK wrestling of the late 1970s and early 1980s. I was a part of the legion of small boys (and old ladies) who - in the 1970s and 1980s - thrilled to their wrestling heroes at 4 pm every Saturday on ITV's World Of Sport. The mere mention of the name Kendo Nagasaki still provokes an involuntary glow of nostalgic pleasure.
So, with all that in mind, it's perhaps no surprise that I rate this album very highly. That said, I hope I'm also detached enough to recognise that - even by Luke's high standards - this album is something special. It continues the trajectory set by Luke's previous two solo releases "Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop" and "21st Century Man"). In common with "9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations...", those records are full of well-crafted, melodic, witty, interesting pop songs. And that's the bottom line, Luke's songs get under my skin in a way that precious few other writers and performers achieve.
Luke being Luke, doesn't merely produce a straightforward concept album. Nope. Many of the wrestling greats (take a bow Kendo Nagasaki and manager "Gorgeous" George Gillette, Catweazle, 'Cry Baby' Jim Breaks, Giant Haystacks, Big Daddy, Rollerball Rocco etc.) appear in both prosaic and psychedelic circumstances. Kendo Nagasaki writes a "Rock Opera in the Key of Existential Misery"; Big Daddy becomes besotted with a Casio VL Tone; Kendo Nagasaki watches TV whilst a treacherous plumber plans to reveal his identity; Rollerball Rocco regrets visiting Les Kellett's greasy spoon cafe; and so on. It's wonderful, and unquestionably my favourite album of 2011.
A knowledge of British Wrestling of the late 1970s and early 1980s certainly enhances my pleasure in this album, however Luke's songwriting skills will ensure that there's still plenty to enjoy for the casual listener. And on that note, anyone interested in 70s British Wrestling should get hold of The Wrestling
by Simon Garfield. A splendid book, and the perfect companion piece to this album.