Luke Haines

The Oliver Twist Manifesto

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AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman

"Don't expect me to entertain you any more than you could entertain me." Over a lullaby melody as precious as a worn blankey, Luke Haines provides an opening disclaimer to The Oliver Twist Manifesto, his first "proper" solo record following shortly after the release of his score/soundtrack to Christie Malry's Own Double Entry. An unabashedly pop record with minimal guitar overdrive put to use, it also manages to sound only remotely like the records he's made with John Moore and Sarah Nixey as Black Box Recorder. Generally, the record isn't akin to the pop noir of BBR; instead, it offers relatively ornate electronic-pop realized by an elite songwriter in his mid-thirties -- one who has been keeping his ear to the streets. There's more than a gentle nudge toward the production techniques of visionaries Mannie Fresh and Timbaland; witness the jittering beats in "Oliver Twist" and the laser zap-zaps in the title track for two major examples. For longtime fans of Haines' prior work, this development will take some getting used to, but those who are chiefly smitten with his wordplay will be delighted as always -- sly assaults and pints of bladderbrau are aimed at the underappreciative record industry, Jesus Christ, and "all of Britannia," just for good measure. ("They're having sex to 'The Kids in America'" might be his most unsettling line.) Furthermore, the lyrical razorblades are coated in his sweetest pop confections yet. For all the inherent sourness possessed by Haines, the furrowed brow, the disapproving sneer, the promises of ruined reputations, he's a sucker for a good melody. Each of the 11 songs are festooned with twinkling melodies, vocal hooks, regal strings both synthetic and real. In the end, it all ends up sounding only like Luke Haines, subversive, prolific pop iconoclast.

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