I’ll be honest and say from the start that how different this is from Luke Haines playing with anyone else, might have to be considered.
Luke Haines is like the “chilli” of the music world, as it might be deemed that Haines’ vocal is such a strong element that it can tend to overwhelm the other ingredients. This factor aside, it’s funny how this album came about. Peter Buck had bought a painting by Haines’ alter ego, for £99 (not bad), and they both had decided that fate had brought them together and they had better write some songs. Beat Poetry For Survivalists is the result; a happy coincidence as this is some of Haines’s strongest work, and one which will have you humming along, long after it has finished.
Listening to this album, I found much of its content to be very cinematic. The lyrics themselves draw the listener into their world. The first number looks at rocket engineer Jack Parsons, who lived in the early part of the last century. The image of whom he paints was of a rock star of his day; “Jack Parsons walked on Mars, …rocket fuel makes me horny , terra firma kinda bores me, I wanna be up there with the angels“. Do you see what I mean? A rock-star sized ego. Then into ‘Apocalypse Beach‘, in which he references modern-day rock star/actor, Donovan Leitch, English-born son of sixties singer Donovan. A song in which I felt he was drawing closeness between the UK and America, telling of a cold war idyll, the marriage of the 2 states being laid in the American/English of this personality. To ‘Last of the Legendary Big Foot Hunters‘ in which another fabled myth is referenced and played alongside The Ramones, another fabled unit, past, but certainly not forgotten, and here have been elevated to this same level for purposes of the song.
By this point, we have been brought into the artists’ world, but what must not be forgotten is the crazy almost psychedelic musical accompaniment. Wild guitar performed with a heady serving of wah-wah, E Bow and keyboard, Haines’ vocal the serving of chocolate spread that sits atop this pastry. If you were expecting an album, that came close to R.E.M., you will be disappointed, as Buck’s involvement in no way represents this. In some way though, I think it has relieved him from this expectation. Haines has taken on board all he can from being involved with such a legend and has created a work that is filled with a mid-Atlantic drawl and produced, quite unexpectedly, a classic.
Beat Poetry For Survivalists is out now on Cherry Red.