PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Luke Haines: Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s ...

Maria Schurr

While not as solid as some of the Auteurs and Black Box Recorder mastermind's past conceptual dabbles, Nine and a Half … is a marvel all the same.

Luke Haines

Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early '80s

Label: PID/Fantastic Plastic
US Release Date: 2011-11-15
UK Release Date: 2011-11-07

Reviewing a Luke Haines release is destined to put the critic at a disadvantage. No matter the magnitude of praise heaped upon it, we will never deem a release as ingenious as the mastermind behind the Auteurs and co-mastermind behind Black Box Recorder does. When the critic is an American, the disadvantages are even greater: as deft a songwriter as Haines is (and he's one of the deftest that ever existed), there is no way most of us can fully relate to the 1970s UK working class experience. The closest Haines has ever come to succeeding in relating this period is "Leeds United", in my opinion one of the best written songs of all time. In just under four minutes, Haines crystallizes an era that has taken authors such as The Damned United scribe David Peace five books to convey. What's more, Haines does it with effortless humour and glam-rock bombast.

Haines' latest release – Nine and a half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early '80s – is perhaps his most perplexing yet. As implied by the title, it's a concept album on wrestling, packed with the customarily beguiling Luke Haines hooks and glam indie-pop harmonies. Haines has tackled the concept album before (see the before-its-time Baader-Meinhof, with its twisted pop songs on terrorism), but wrestling? While not as solid as some of those past conceptual dabbles, Nine and a Half … is a marvel all the same.

When embarking on a Luke Haines release, one would be wise to keep a guide on British 20th century culture handy. That isn't to say Haines is exclusively for intellectuals and the anglophilic elite, it is just that his eccentricity and prickliness is on par with his masterful songwriting. For American listeners, it is easy to get caught up in impossible hooks as cultural references go careening over one's head. While Haines can be taken as someone in vehement opposition to nostalgia, Nine and a Half … has a resignation about it, one that is perhaps enhanced by Haines recalling growing up watching wrestling with his (now ill) father in recent interviews. "Gorgeous George" in particular has a stately serenity, even if a threat of violence arises before the first verse is over.

Despite a less pronounced bite, Haines' oddness and peerless songwriting prowess haven’t weakened. Just give something like "Inside the Restless Mind of Rollerboy Rocco" one listen and try not to be hoodwinked by its chorus, which makes gold out of an assertion of bad cafeteria food. Likewise, give "Big Daddy Got a Casio VL-Tone" a spin and try your darndest not to spend the rest of the day pondering the song's ticky oddness.

Vocally, Haines' delivery still feels like the aural equivalent of a pillow wrapped in barbed wire, but enough listening to the man makes one realize that there is no more appropriate method of singing. Like the spectacle of wrestling itself, the air of theatricality is undeniably present. As brilliant a persona as Haines' curmudgeonly dandy one is, it is hard to believe a father and husband can maintain such an image 24/7. For all his railing against music critics in his autobiographies – Bad Vibes and Post Everything – Haines communicates with plenty of journalists via Twitter, after all. While not the first place to begin en route to a life as a Haines convert, Nine and a Half … assures us long-time fans that he is as masterful a subverter as ever.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.


20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.


Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.


The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.


Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).


Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.


Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.


Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.


Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.