PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Luke Haines: New York in the '70s

Brit Luke Haines has the chutzpah to cover such an integral time in cultural and counter-cultural history in New York.


Luke Haines

New York in the '70s

Label: Cherry Red
US Release Date: 2014-06-03
UK Release Date: 2014-05-26
Amazon
iTunes

Luke Haines has made a career out of being an outsider. It’s a fact that even a non-fan can gauge by simply reading the title of his second memoir, Post-Everything: Outsider Rock ‘n’ Roll. He has also been a faithful mythologizer, in more recent years applying this skill to specific cultural icons and moments rather than on himself. Haines’ last two solo albums, comprising the “psychedelic trilogy” which ends with New York in the '70s, have concerned themselves with British wrestlers (2011’s 9 ½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early ‘80s), and recasting Gene Vincent, Nick Lowe, and Sham 69 frontman Jimmy Pursey as a cat, a badger, and a fox, respectively (2013’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals). Now Haines is back to tackle a point in time that has been mythologized liberally, the explosion of debauchery and rock ‘n’ roll that was 1970s New York. If someone who grew up in southern England and didn’t set foot in New York until the ‘90s has the chutzpah to cover such an integral time in cultural and counter-cultural history, you would hope they’re going to stamp their signature all over it, which Haines of course does – liberally.

A Haines newcomer may find New York in the ‘70s feather light if taking a cursory listen, but Google the album’s title and “press release”, and the numerous levels Haines is operating on becomes apparent. Legendary British hill figure the Cerne Abbas Giant is cited, as is a Television-reciting bird left over from Rock ‘n’ Roll Animals, and a Kaballistic order invoking the New York Dolls, among others. It’s a trip on concept alone, but Haines remains a deft enough producer of ear worms to make a listener feel like the majority of New York in the ‘70s’s dozen tracks are on permanent vacation within the recesses of his or her brain.

Haines has often employed almost jingle-like hooks to counter cruel and biting lyrics, but New York in the ‘70s appears to be somewhat of a departure in that its handling of its subjects is almost as sweet as its melodies. Haines himself has even stated , “I’m not joking on any of this ... I see it as a love letter to all those bands.” That’s not to say subjects such as Jim Carroll, William Burroughs, the New York Dolls, and Suicide’s Alan Vega are all treated with treacly sincerity. Haines' way with words means something like “If variety is all that you’re after / Then get out of the church of repetition, man, because you’re interrupting a master,” on “Alan Vega Says”, is delivered in a way that is equal parts irreverent and oddly sweet.

“Lou Reed Lou Reed” is almost poignant: with lyrics that largely consist of nothing more than the title refrain, it seems to suggest that there’s nothing left to say about certain legends. Then again, Haines is unafraid to also point out the ludicrousness of idol worship, singing that he has a “hard on like the Cerne Abbas Man in the endless sea of rock ‘n’ roll” in closing track “NY Stars” (because, really). Then again, the listener may wonder whether something like “Doll’s Forever” isn’t entirely in jest, but it goes so far beyond being an invocation of the titular decade and brings forth the sensation of being a teenager with an altar to David Johanson in their bedroom (as some undoubtedly did – Morrissey?) so faithfully, that you can’t help but engage in a game of second guessing.

The proliferation of synthesizers on New York in the ‘70s may make some fans yearn for Haines in his more baroque phases, but through such blatant Suicide tributes as “Drone City”, the instrument is justified. The shift that Haines’ output has taken in more recent years has pointed to an artist totally in control of his own direction. Acerbic and oblique tales of life’s darknesses have been replaced by songs singular in concept, accompanied by a more stream-of-consciousness lyrical approach, with Haines remaining steadfast in his outsider stance. The nearly self-deprecating statement of Haines' heritage in the press release (“A mythical re-imagining of a long gone age, by a man who hails from Surrey, Southern UK“) seems to celebrate how the New York of the titular era looked to anyone who considered themselves a misfit or intrigued by excess. It may not be the final word in this specific chapter of rock 'n' roll history, but it certainly is one of the most colorful ones.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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