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British Nuclear Bunkers

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Album Review

The follow-up to the ex-Auteurs/Black Box Recorder frontman's New York in the '70s, the sex, drugs, and rock & roll-fueled third chapter in a psych-folk trilogy that began in 2011 with an LP focused solely on the heyday of British wrestling, 2015's British Nuclear Bunkers once again finds Haines exploring a very specific topic, but dispensing with the urban troubadour approach in favor of a more voltaic disposition. Inspired by the discovery of a Camden Borough-controlled nuclear bunker near his home, Haines began fiddling with his arsenal of analog synthesizers (most notably a mid-'70s Octave-designed monophonic/duophonic beast called The Cat), and before long had conjured what would ultimately become the album's brooding title cut, an icy and largely instrumental (the only lyric is "Maximum electronic rock and roll") mood piece that boasts an equally vexing video featuring Haines assuming various yoga positions while somebody in a gorilla suit makes fresh-squeezed lemonade. In fact, the majority of British Nuclear Bunkers is delivered sans traditional vocals (heavy instances of ominous vocoder, yes), resulting in his most Krautrock-esque and least blatantly sardonic outing to date. Melodic themes persist throughout, with some of the cues from the title cut being revisited near the album's end, and the 8-bit/glitch-blasted "Bunker Funker" yields the paranoid and industrial-tinged "Mama Check the Radar at the Dada Station." Elsewhere, the oddly bucolic "Pussywillow" and the tense "Cold Field Morning Under Bliss" evoke the polar extremes of his work with Black Box Recorder, but unlike some of his prior outings, the ten-track set, which never really establishes much of a cohesive narrative, never really manages to sink its teeth in. At just under 30 minutes, it feels like a bit of a lark, but its brevity actually works in its favor, as an extended set of Haines' sneering incantations and electronic skullduggery would likely require a certain amount of intestinal fortitude.

Biography

Born: 07 October 1967 in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the sharpest and most prolific British songwriters of his generation, Luke Haines -- who began modestly enough in a string of obscure '80s bands, including the Servants -- helmed the glam noir of the Auteurs, the broken funk of Baader Meinhof, and the (mostly) downbeat pop of Black Box Recorder, in addition to releasing material under his own name. During the last seven years of the '90s, Haines issued six albums that ranged from fine to spectacular, from the Mercury Prize-nominated New Wave...
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