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Loveless & Twisted, Manifestly
on 2 July 2001
So here we are with another brief bile injection from the avenging ghost at the Britpop party, with a cover so hideous that it should attain kitsch status sometime in 2002. Luke Haines has, in one guise or another, produced nine albums in nine years, though things have changed somewhat since the poppy optimism of 1993's "New Wave," which memorably used the word "star" 26 times. That turned out to be wishful thinking, as Suede's debut album beat "New Wave" to that year's Mercury Music Prize by one vote, and it's all been downhill from there.
The spiralling descent from there to "Now I'm a Cowboy" and "After Murder Park" was compelling, because however black the subject matter - and Nigel Tufnel could probably estimate how much more black Haines could get than that - Haines has consistently shrouded his misanthropy in simply the best pop music around. Unfortunately with "The Oliver Twist Manifesto" he largely does away with such niceties. What we leave behind are gorgeous songs like "Unsolved Child Murder" and "Future Generation" and in their place we get a diatribe of contempt for his contemporaries set over piddling drumbeats. Roughly half the album comprises this sort of indulgent tosh and the other half more traditional Haines compositions, but all sounding oddly underproduced, sketches rather than final recordings. This feeling is entrenched by the alternative version of "Discomania" which is thin and pale in comparison to the recording on the "Christie Malry" soundtrack released last month.
Of course there are trademark Haines moments, like the glorious self-aggrandisement of "Christ", and it's just possible that this, like 2000's "The Facts of Life," is an album which will take time to reveal its full beauty: but I doubt it. "This is not entertainment," says the surface of the CD: no kidding.
So it's a shame, then, for the second time in a month, to have to file a new Luke Haines album under "minor works" along with "Baader Meinhof", rather than joining the canon with the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder catalogue. Check out those, if you're remiss enough not to have them already, but don't buy "The Oliver Twist Manifesto" - it'll only discourage him.