ALBUM REVIEW: Luke Haines - British Nuclear Bunkers

Luke Haines ... British Nuclear Bunkers (Cherry Red Records)
Luke Haines ... British Nuclear Bunkers (Cherry Red Records)

Luke Haines is perhaps best known for The Auteurs song Lenny Valentino, which appears on lots of 90s Britpop compilations.

He was one of the genre’s ‘nearly men’, having never quite made it into the public consciousness in the way Blur, Oasis and Pulp did, or the myriad acts which trailed in their wake.

But you’d imagine that doesn’t bother him one bit, as he’s been ploughing his own very individual furrow for 30 years now, with The Auteurs, Baader Meinhof and Black Box Recorder, as well as as a solo artist.

And he’s nothing if not prolific; this is his 10th solo album, and the second this year after February’s Adventures in Dementia.

The premise behind British Nuclear Bunkers is that beneath the surface of the UK lies a vast and secret network of abandoned nuclear bunkers.

Sometime in the future the population has retreated into these bunkers, for a reason which isn’t clear - nuclear attack, chemical attack, germ warfare, or perhaps of their own free will.

Whatever the reason, they are living the utopian dream, communicating wordlessly via a highly-developed new subconsciousness, and money and food are plentiful.

They now worship a new god; a piece of silverware referred to as the ‘New Pagan Sun’, found in a bunker near Stoke on Trent, near the location of the 1980 World Darts Championship final between Eric Bristow and Bobby George.

Bonkers? Undoubtedly. But it’s also a very good album of electronic music, which harks back to the genre’s mid-70s beginnings.

That’s probably because it was recorded using entirely analogue synthesisers, with only occasional vocals.

It opens with This Is The BBC, featuring a stark siren and automated voice, which has a real post-apocalyptic feel.

The robotic, mood-building title track is next, followed by Camden Borough Council, which lulls you into thinking it’s much more melancholy, only to ruin your false sense of security with terrifying screeching sounds.

Test Card Forever is much more upbeat, and probably the album’s most Kraftwerk-like offering, while Cold Field Morning Under Bliss is more stark, with repetitive synthesised vocals which gradually become more human.

The kids’ song Pussy Willow has a very childish, ‘new beginnings’ feel to it, but by the closing Deep Level Shelters Under London the robotic voice is back, leaving you wondering whether this brave new world is all it seems.

It’s an album best listened to in the dark, so the different moods flow over you, and the sense of foreboding ebbs and flows.

I liked it a lot, but got the feeling that this is a story which might not be finished just yet. 7/10. GW