Luke Haines @ Lexington
The Lexington. 24apr12.
A balding man with a fedora pulled tight over his eyes, clad entirely in black, hunches over his guitar, here on a damp night in Islington. This seems in keeping with a chap who once wrote songs with titles like Unsolved Child Murder and lines such as “life is unfair, kill yourself or get over it”.
If also fits in with someone who has now published two volumes of memoir recalling his more high profile years in The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder, in which the 90’s music industry, and anyone operating in its orbit, is withered by prose so bilious you could burn through a girder with it.
What is perhaps harder to square with all this history is that, behind him, are brightly rendered paintings of 12 legends of UK professional wrestling, and a stooge dressed as one of them sitting silently reading The Sun. Kendo Nagasaki, since you ask.
Then again, such a set up seems obvious when you’re touting a record titled “9½ Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970’s & Early ‘80’s”, tonight being played in its entirety. If you’re singing songs with lyrics about having “liver sausage sandwiches for tea” after watching World Of Sport’s Saturday afternoon wrestling broadcast, why wouldn’t you get ‘Kendo’ to hand a tray of said sarnies around the room. Why wouldn’t we fling ourselves into audience participation as a list of wrestling ‘greats’ are ticked off as being *clears throat* “IN HEAVEN!”?
Indeed, Luke Haines’s operates as a malevolent cynic only at face value. All of his work has been characterised by a mordant wit, it’s just now enveloped within a kind of music hall anti-nostalgia. Here we are, after all, celebrating the kind of low-rent entertainment that existed in a time before television adopted any pride in its production values, and before US pro-wrestling came bursting over the Atlantic, all storylines and steroids. In the UK in the 1980’s, we had to make do with a pensioners gut-barging contest. Sure, I loved it. I was about 8 at that, clearly more innocent, time.
So, when Luke Haines sings about “egg and chips from the transport caff”, “mincing mauler of the Top Rank” and “Wolverhampton Civic Hall”, he isn’t wearing rose-tinted spectacles, he is merely pencilling in a few more shades of the grey.