So Luke Haines – man, musician, author, artist, goatherd, lower league journeyman footballer – did do a record.
And not just any record; no simpering up to The Man with “Please let me do a record” plastered across his chops. No; this most modern day Peter Ustinov locked himself away in his Luke Haines room, and in the name of art (or Art, or ART), proceeded to do his dirty and insidious record right there on the Axminster, seventy-five times in succession. Each recorded, packaged, then flogged – one apiece – to seventy-five punters waving seventy-five notes of the realm.
The identity of the dilettantes now in possession of a unique gaze into Haines’ mottled soul are yet to be revealed; even the guilty have certain rights. However, as this is art (Art, ART), and because endeavours of this sort demand objective truth, Lazer Guided Melody took a hammer to his piggy bank, then waited patiently for the postie to arrive with a version of Raving clutched in paws like some holy medieval relic.
It was Eoin Colfer in Artemis Fowl who wrote “Let us proceed under the assumption that the fairy folk do exist, and that I am not a gibbering moron.” (Or to quote David Shrigley: “Fuck this shit, we fucking hate it, we fucking hate the world.” Although that’s slightly less relevant to proceedings). Now, I’m no folklore expert, but rather suspect that if fairies are a thing, then some rather evil ones lurk about the Haines gaff.
For Raving (or at least my version of Raving – the other seventy-four may feature acerbic interpretations of The Sound of Music soundtrack for all I know) is what us cultural commentators know as rum sport. Bad juju. Proof (if any were needed) that Haines must be in terminal stages of Robert Robinson Syndrome, and just like the erstwhile host of TV’s Ask The Family, will shortly start gnawing at his own legs.
In fact, I asked my dog – a big Ornette Coleman / Godspeed You! Black Emperor fan – what she thought of this record. Turns out she was rather nonplussed, right up until ‘Impossible Art Band’, when Herr Haines starts dicking about with a squeaky toy. She liked that bit. Muchly. Whatever the canine for “I fucking love this noise; where is the small, furry animal I can kill?” Haines nails it. The Kennel Club would dig this disc – and I rather suspect the talent is missing a trick by not direct marketing his wares to every shih tzu and bichon frisé breeder in the home counties.
A hound has heard this record when millions of Luke Haines devotees the world over probably never will, and this truth triggered discomfort at first, as if I were some shady oligarch who’d paid Johnny Lightfingers to relieve the Guggenheim of their trinkets, then displayed them in a secret special room no other fucker would ever have access to.
But then I remembered that art (Art, ART) is supposed to reflect the human condition. Designed to square up to questions such as “What’s the bloody point?”(as Kenneth Williams put it in his final diary entry) or “Why can’t I have a copy of Raving?” – which made me feel a great deal better. “Each CD of Raving is recorded live to tape with minimal overdubs and lasts between 30 – 35 minutes,” says the blurb. “Mr. Haines plays some of the instruments simultaneously.” I have volume 32 (ignore the #53 on the artwork – that’s just to fool the uninitiated), and by this stage of the marathon recording process Haines was really finding his groove – underlining how this isn’t mere vanity project or a useful method of using discarded material to fleece the fans, but a bona fide proposition. A rather splendid charabanc tour through the artist’s sick mind, the B roads that we’re guided down weird places, dark places – you almost expect to bump into an old duffer driving a Morris 1100 – but also contextual. Songs about Bolan, the Incredible String Band, darts, Herbie Hancock’s dietary requirements; “Oh God,” you think, “it’s fucking comedy.” But no, sailor, this is no laughing matter. Art is a serious business, and guffawing (or rolling your eyes) is only going to get you kicked down the stairs.
“The way to create art is to burn and destroy ordinary concepts and to substitute them with new truths that run down from the top of the head and out of the heart.” Charles Bukowski said that. Probably the old dirt-bird’s longest ever sentence, which isn’t the point. Raving is trademark Haines, and he doesn’t give a fiddler’s what you think about it. Probably because of new truths, and art (Art, ART). You can pop round mine for a listen, but just the one listen, and I’ll frisk you on the way out.