November 25, 2022

All the kids are super disappointed

All the kids are super disappointed

Luke Haines and Peter Buck

Cherry red discs

October 28, 2022

There have been some unlikely collaborations in the rock and roll pantheon. David Bowie and Bing Crosby. Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue – and who can forget, as much as we would all love: Lou Reed and Metallica. The results of these particular unions are mixed, to say the least. So, is it pure bloodthirsty driving these couples to work together? You could ask Luke Haines and Peter Buck. They did it twice. Compared to Bing and the Thin White Duke, Haines and Buck aren’t a particularly outlandish prospect as long as you don’t dig a little below the surface. Both are icons of alternative rock, but in terms of temperament, they seem a world apart.

When you think of Luke Haines, your mental image is probably that of a bitter misanthrope, making twisted, bile-filled ditties in a filthy back room in the worst part of town. Peter Buck looks carefree like a man who travels everywhere with a selection of guitars in the trunk of his car, just in case there might be a chance of a quick scratch. Let’s face it, if Justin Beiber tweeted that he was an REM fan, Buck would be knocking on his door, Rickenbacker in hand, hungry for a jam within the hour. They may live on the same street, but Buck lives in the house with the neatly trimmed lawn and three-car garage, and Haines lives in the seedy apartment above the funeral home.

All the kids are super disappointed is the dynamic duo’s second album. Beat poetry for survivors (2020) suffered slightly from being released at precisely the wrong time, about 48 hours before the world was sentenced to a year-long lockdown. This debut record, loaded with dark humor, obscure references and a willfully perverse raison d’être, was met with raised eyebrows and pained expressions. The 2022 offering offers twice as much as the previous release, but with more of everything that made the debut album so unsettling. Sonically, All the kids are super disappointed remember Document/Green REM era with Baader Meinhof Haines era at the helm.

The formula seems to be Peter Buck (skillfully aided by longtime alumni Scott McCaughey and Linda Pitmon) gently guiding Haines through the dark roads of alternative rock. The opening track, “The British Army on LSD,” twists and turns very appealingly, with Haines intoning the words “feeling groovy” in a way that would have given Charlie Manson nightmares. “The Skies Are Full of Insane Machines” is even better than the title suggests – all brutal guitars and pounding drums. Haines clearly enjoys singing the title, intimidating the words in a memorable chorus.

Luke Haines loves British glam rock. He spends a lot of time snickering at 95% of modern pop music, but if it was recorded between 1971 and 1973 by a sly-looking band of 20-somethings in silver pants and badly applied eyeshadow, it’s probably on his Spotify playlist. “Subterranean Earth Angel Stomp” wobbles with a classic glam backbeat and entry-level barre chord guitar abuse. It’s an irresistible combination. This is followed by a 1977 punk rock ramalama track, “The Commies Are Coming”. There’s a whiff of Brian Eno in the way the guitar solo is changed into something sharp and unusual. At your service Roxy Music era jamming with the Sweet? Sort of, and the album isn’t even halfway through yet.

The second CD begins with the modest “Minimalist House Burns Down”. It’s an almost but not quite spoken word piece with sometimes hysterically funny lyrics. “My minimalist house burned down / There wasn’t much to do / There wasn’t much to save / It was a minimalist house, after all,” Haines says. The minimalist chorus is Haines singing “Not on your nelly”, which will have non-UK residents racing towards anything they can Google on. “Exit Space (All the Kids are Super Bummed Out)” is the soundtrack to a bad trip, directed by Stanley Kubrick. After nearly four minutes of nightmarish Mellotron abuse, Haines slips away singing “all the kids are super depressed”, interspersed with fake monkey calls. It has a particular psychedelic grandeur.

Just to make things even weirder, Lenny Kaye takes the mic for “And We Will.” Unfortunately, this is a bit of a faux pas. Coming late in the double album order, we may have gotten used to the rather left-wing approach used throughout the project, and nothing about this sound collage really grabs attention. The last track, “Waiting for the UFOs”, is however a nice semi-fantasy signature. It’s a soothing way to end a strange, bumpy, but still fascinating journey.

Beat poetry for survivors was the sound of Haines and Buck trying to outdo each other. A weird vanity project that turned out better than anyone, but the diehards might have expected. All the kids are super disappointed takes all the good ideas (and some really interesting bad ideas) from its predecessor, spreads it out over 17 tracks, and steps back to admire the chaos. It’s a weird jumble of pop art, lo-fi, and gallows humor tossed in a bucket and left unattended. If it’s not in your top ten albums of 2022, you can’t be one of the cool kids.