So it’s back to nostalgia for the ‘70s once more with Luke Haines on new album Smash The System. Not that it’s maybe that decade as experienced in this reality but nevertheless it bears a pretty good resemblance.
Sport-wise darts rather than wrestling (as lovingly recalled on 9½ Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s And Early '80s from 2011) gets top billing this time around with Eric Bristow & Bobby George being name-checked on 'Are You Mad'. The late Marc Bolan is fondly remembered on ‘Marc Bolan Blues’ amidst a ton of double entendres. Elsewhere The Incredible String Band's singing is compared to "a couple of weasels trapped in a sack". He loves them though.
Other than the time period being recalled there’s no theme to this work, unlike on the aforementioned wrestling album and there are properly enjoyable tunes (unlike British Nuclear Bunkers from last year). For that latter point this is then definitely a return to form.
The politics of the era is the first of the album's touchstones on opening track 'Ulrike Meinhof's Brain Is Missing', an I, Ludicrous-like take on the odd-but-true disappearance of the German terrorist's gehirn following her death in custody. Naturally it's sung from the organ's point of view.
As Peter de Vries said, however, “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be” and Smash The System suffers from a bit of bogging down as early as the second song ('Black Bunny (I'm Not Vince Taylor)'). Taylor's a star maybe too obscure for many although his Wikipedia entry will no doubt get a lot more hits in coming weeks.
'Power Of The Witch' is a pretty straight ahead riffs-&-shouting number and things then get back to the album's earlier promise from 'Cosmic Man (Intro)' onwards. Haines has a great way with words when it comes to setting the scene and he's at his best when you suspect his tongue is well in his cheek. Couple that with the edgier uses he puts his electronica to, throw in a child's choir and you know you're back on bizarre but safe ground. 'Bruce Lee, Roman Polanski & Me' is inspired lunacy of the highest order.
Whilst such recent albums as New York In The '70s and Rock And Roll Animals maybe enjoy a greater degree of cohesiveness (easier to achieve with an encompassing theme after all) Smash The System is a very good release & features the year's best kazoo solo to boot.