Photographer: Christopher Hewitt.
Evidently uninterested in creating anything but obscure thematic works, British ex-pat Luke Haines delivers Adventures in Dementia: A Micro Opera, his fourth consecutive concept album in four years. Whether writing about wrestlers (2011's Nine and a Half Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s and Early '80s), fairy tale animals bearing the names of rock icons (2013's Rock and Roll Animals), or rock icons themselves (2014's New York in the '70s), Haines' aptitude for trenchant wit, cultural observations (pop and otherwise), and nurturing his inherent eccentricity remains unparalleled. While billed as a "Micro Opera," this brief six-song set is essentially an EP that clocks in at just under 15 minutes in length. Barring a one-line song about British children's television character Parsley the Lion, and a kazoo-led instrumental rendition of the popular hymn "Jerusalem," the remaining four songs tell the story of a Mark E. Smith impersonator towing a large caravan (apparently with the members of the Fall locked inside) through the English countryside who collides with another car driven by Ian Stuart from noted neo-Nazi skinhead band Skrewdriver. Musically, these are some of the loosest, noisiest Haines compositions in years and the lyrical style often resorts to bluntly clipped phrasing that reflects the motley assortment of characters. "Lap top! Lap top! What is lap top? A tea tray? With cats. Inside lap top?" he harshly intones on the roughshod "Cats That Look Like MES." The weird dubstep title cut features similarly odd chestnuts like "Fall singer's holiday almost ruined by dead skin in the way" and alternating choruses of "Smashing people's faces in" and "Someone bring the beer along" all set to poorly recorded guitar chunks and pseudo-mystical recorder trills. Elsewhere, there are mentions of British talk show personalities Baddiel & Skinner and comedian Peter Cook to further confound what is already a typically bizarre Luke Haines joint. More than perhaps any of his other releases, Adventures in Dementia is a difficult ride and is unlikely to attract many new fans that aren't already firmly in Haines' circle. Although it may not be his most cohesive release, it's nothing if not completely original and begs the question of where he'll go from here. ~ Timothy Monger