It is an old fashioned album in other ways, it is a 10 song cycle that works brilliantly when listened to in one sitting. That isn’t to say that individuals songs don’t work on their own but the whole album experience is when it hits near perfection. In an age where single track downloads become more and more common this is as much of a nostalgic relic as the British wrestling scene recorded in the album’s songs.
Musically it covers themes that will be familiar to anyone who has listened to Haine’s previous output, and carries on where 21st Century Man left off. On the glam rock stomp of ‘Linda’s Head’ Haines sounds eerilylike a sinister Marc Bolan. The synth pop of ‘Big Daddy Got A Casio VL-Tone’ tells the brilliant imagined story of the man himself trying out his musical ideas on the synthesiser of the title.
I have to admit that I came to this album with a positive frame of mind. I love a lot of Luke Haine’s previous work, and the subject matter appealed to me enormously. Even taking that into account I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the album and it is possibly my most repeated album of the year in a very short period of time. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album I’ve heard this year. This isn’t just one of the best albums by a British artist that has been released this year, it is also one of the best albums by an artists with a pretty impressive back catalogue.
Despite a less pronounced bite, Haines’ oddness and peerless songwriting prowess haven’t weakened. Just give something like “Inside the Restless Mind of Rollerboy Rocco” one listen and try not to be hoodwinked by its chorus, which makes gold out of an assertion of bad cafeteria food. Likewise, give “Big Daddy Got a Casio VL-Tone” a spin and try your darndest not to spend the rest of the day pondering the song’s ticky oddness.
Vocally, Haines’ delivery still feels like the aural equivalent of a pillow wrapped in barbed wire, but enough listening to the man makes one realize that there is no more appropriate method of singing. Like the spectacle of wrestling itself, the air of theatricality is undeniably present. As brilliant a persona as Haines’ curmudgeonly dandy one is, it is hard to believe a father and husband can maintain such an image 24/7. For all his railing against music critics in his autobiographies – Bad Vibes and Post Everything – Haines communicates with plenty of journalists via Twitter, after all. While not the first place to begin en route to a life as a Haines convert, Nine and a Half … assures us long-time fans that he is as masterful a subverter as ever.