Luke Haines - 21st Century Man
How does one define underrated? Is it the gulf between quantifiable sales and the unquantifiable perception of talent? Or is it a lack of critical acclaim for something that is clearly better than everyone thinks it is? It’s a tough one. But after fourteen brilliant albums (and this is number fifteen) why has Luke Haines not been appointed as our monarch? Because he is underrated - in every possible connotation and definition of the term.
Never achieving the levels of success or critical praise of some of his peers hasn’t dampened the Haines spirit. As time has gone on he’s delivered again and again. The material on 21st Century Man stands up against classics like ‘Show Girl’ or ‘How Could I Be Wrong’ from the first Auteurs album back in 1993. How many other artists at album number fifteen have such energy and ingenuity? Maybe his lack of commercial success has always made him hungry. Like Lawrence from Felt he remains one of English song writing's best kept secrets.
21st Century Man documents an extraordinary creative force in full flow. He has the ability to observe and re-tell the details of life outside his window or step back and put the world to rights. His lyrical genius entwines with an unparalleled ability to arrange songs. Using a vast array of instrumentation, yet managing to not overload the scene. He uses each sparingly - adding detail only where necessary. It’s only when stepping back and observing the whole piece that the jigsaw assembles and the glorious final vision is unveiled. It's this attention to detail combined with an unshakeable core of solid songwriting that rolls out classic after classic.
Had this album been released in the sixties it would be spoken about in the same revered tones as Ray Davies' finest. ‘Suburban Mourning’ is The Monkees' ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ viewed through English rose-tinted spectacles. It looks at the lives resolving around our front doors and pebble-dashed exteriors, but isn’t afraid to laugh or poke fun at our eccentricities.
‘English Southern Man’ may well be the most beautiful thing he’s ever written. The steel strung guitar sweeps through the song like a summer wind adding a tenderness and depth. No one makes music like this anymore, and in any decade writing of this quality is a rare commodity.
As things come to close on final track ‘21st Century Man’ Luke sings “What can you do when you’ve made your masterpiece? / That’s what I did in the nineties”. The answer would seem to be keep doing it. Quite fittingly, just before the close of the noughties he’s produced yet another.