Luke Haines's position as outsider renaissance man of rock'n'roll has been shored up in recent years by his 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early '80s and his contributions to last year's absurdist alternative history of 20th-century England, The North Sea Scrolls, and is due to extend into yet another area later this year with the alternative cookbook, Plate the F*ck Up.
For the moment, though, Rock and Roll Animals finds him back on his core curriculum of rock myth and legend, offering a psychedelic fairytale in which three chums – Jimmy Pursey the fox, Gene Vincent the wise old cat, and a badger called Nick Lowe – engage in frolicsome fun and take up arms against a “f*ck ugly bird from Tyneside”, better known as the Angel of the North. As usual with Haines, it's a mad collision of polemic, caricature and social critique, couched in a generic music form – sort of Tales of the Riverbank meets John Ruskin on the patio of Traffic's Berkshire cottage. With narration by Julia Davis.
It's a bizarre and genially entertaining project which enables Haines to muse laterally on pop character –Lowe, for instance, is back-handedly self-depicted as “one of the greats, they say; and a journeyman, too” – while taking pot shots at contemporary cultural tropes, in this case Gormley's “monstrosity of steel and wire”, which he believes defiles the memory of striking miners' struggles.
It's all set to richly twee folk-rock textures of guitar arpeggios, organ, recorder and Jew's harp, as Haines proceeds to a typically confusing conclusion in “Rock N Roll Animals in Space”, where he outlines a quixotic notion of rock righteousness with reference to specific periods in the careers of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Soft Machine and the Stones. “The Stones without Brian were not righteous,” he claims, “even though he was probably evil.”
But while Rock and Roll Animals will doubtless sell just a fraction of the Stones' new live album, and probably the rest of this week's releases, it offers an engagement with the notion of music as a lived obsession that far outstrips their mostly meagre intentions.
Download: Rock N Roll Animals; A Badger Called Nick Lowe; Gene Vincent; The Angel of The North