Luke returns to the concept album – and a concept it is. Here’s the background blurb:
Just off the Westway, in the motorway sidings, you can see a small sign. Actually you probably can’t see the sign as it is the size of a child’s fingernail clipping. The sign says ‘Glue Town.’ The name of a village. There is little or no documentation of Glue Town. You will not find any information about it on the 21st Century internet. Glue Town is a rural settlement born out of mutation. Of the estimated 500 or so dwellers, no one is thought to be over 2 1⁄2 inches tall. The citizens of Glue Town exist on a diet of solvent abuse and perpetual horniness. The residents only leave to carry out daring night-time ‘glue raids’ on Shepherds Bush newsagent shops. On a tiny screen in the town centre, an old Betamax cassette of ‘Michael Bentine’s Pottytime’ plays on a loop all day and all night. The reduced size villagers go about their daily business pondering whether the lessons of Pottytime can show them a way out of their drudge lives of sexual abandonment and human sacrifice…
Though everything about this screams a term Haines would no doubt abhor – “whimsy” – it is in fact the most brutal and extreme of all his releases: a phrase not to be thrown about lightly around an artist who has covered child murder, terrorism and Peter Sutcliffe. The album’s real strength is its resolute refusal to look askance at the listener to see if they “get the joke”. Despite the profuse copulating and clever wordplay, you are much more likely to feel a sense of devastation than suffer a fit of giggles.
Largely pushing the hefty electronic potatoes of his last few releases to one side to partake instead of the choice meat of the harmonium, recorder and playground chanting, the first indication of distinct ookiness is “I Fell in Love with an 00 Scale Wife”, an earnest Incredible String Band wheezing tale of a bizarre population:
“My Scale Wife/Her Tiny Feet/Enormous Breasts/Where I Lay My Shrunken Head”
The twin attack of “Solvents Cure the Ego” and “At It With The Tree Surgeon’s Wife” marry hand-whittled instrumentation with a krautrock vista of blank-faced hopelessness which is paradoxically heartless and heart-string bothering. The introduction of wah-wah electric guitar and a similarly squawking bird builds up to a crescendo which is essentially Lord Summerisle fronting Amon Dull II. Like much of Haines’ work, the album follows people in very ordinary situations finding unfathomable difficulty with what should be simple pleasures. An Airfix land which promises childhood innocence relies on household solvents which lead to debauched romps. Sex leads to human sacrifice. No-one lives happily ever after.
Even by Luke Haines standards, this is a belligerent release, a rural English broadside which is as uncomfortably cloying as the 8th episode of the last series of Twin Peaks. Imagine this is the last album Luke Haines makes – the critical analysis that distils profound commentary on the Trump Years. The people who enjoy this album will not have any truck with these folk. Enjoy the glue and let the masses get on with their strange lives.