Luke Haines – New York in the ‘70s

I can never fully decide whether Luke Haines is an underrated, national treasure or an overrated failure lurching through middle age from one vanity concept album to another.


At times he can be witty and brilliant, such as on 2011’s 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and early ’80s, which brought to life the bygone era of TV wresting and its characters. This was the first part of a ‘psychedelic trilogy’ that also featured 2013’s Rock and Roll Animals and concludes with this look at New York in the 1970s.

Unfortunately though this last offering in the trilogy just feels too much like a vanity project with no sense of quality control. The result, sadly, is lacklustre and humourless.

There’s a basic conceit somewhere about comparing the drugged up club and art scene of New York with rubbish English towns and life. This could have worked as the basis for a song but it is not an interesting enough concept to be able to carry a 12 track album.

Lyrically even Haines seems bored by the concept, at times just reciting lists of New York celebrities and British seaside towns, or whispering through efforts such as “’Oh Lou Reed, Lou Reed, rock and roll is Om, like the Doo Ron Ron.” It just all seems a little lame for a man of Haines’s talent with the written word, particularly his Brit Pop memoirs Bad Vibes and Post Everything.

Musically, New York in the ‘70s fares little better as the tracks move between synth pop and guitar rock, with hints of US rock solos and excess all played by someone who thought he had a good idea but has discovered it wasn’t before it was too late to call a halt to the studio time he’d booked.

This is not Haines at his best and unlike his far better recent albums left me thinking that if Haines can’t be arsed anymore why should I be arsed to listen to his latest albums? Of course I’ll be back for more. He’s a witty and talented guy, even if he doesn’t show it on this album.


By Joe Lepper


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