Baader Meinhof - Baader Meinhof

Clark Collis

Conspiracy theorists can moan all they like. The fact remains; there are no proven links between mid-70's terrorism and Planet Funk. PLO coffers weren't swelled by Isacc Hayes' royalty cheques. 'Superstition' played backwards does not give instructions on how to make a letter bomb. And Carlos the Jackal never blew alto sax on the sountrack to Car Wash. He's got an air-tight alibi and, anyway, everyone knows Carlos is strictly a tenor man.

Yet in the mind of Luke Haines these things are somehow connected. God knows how - some pre-pubescent Panorama/Top Of The Pops mex-upo perchance? - but they are. The result is 'Baader Meinhof', in which The Auteurs frontman tells tales of balaclava'd terror whilst simultaneously staking his claim as nascent soul god for the 21st century. If the result is immediately fascinating then it is also, in parts, darned hard work.

Where most pop songs can be understood given even the most basic knowledge of biology, 'Baader Meinhof' is a no-holds barred trawl through recent history that frequently seems to require one-to-one tutorials with Kate Adie. Thus, while the two versions of the title track that bookend the album drip with details about the notorious West German anarchists, you aren't really left much wiser about the subject matter or Haines' own views. Moreover anyone who can figure out 'Mogadishu' ("Dubai"? "Fireworks"? "Beautiful Saturday night"? Hello?) should instantly change their name to Braniac and have a crack at conquering the world.

Thankfully, though, it is as a popster rather than a professor that we have come to know Mr H. And in this department he defiantly delivers. Abandoning the straight-ish band approach of The Auteurs, tracks such as "Back On The Farm" and "Meet At The Airport" find instrumentation stripped back to a minimum of strings, handclaps and occasional snatches of guitar, all of which bounce off the singer's menace-laden diatribes. Indeed, when listening to the Stevie Wonder inflected "There's Gonna Be An Accident" or "Theme To Burn" - which at times sounds more like "Theme From Shaft" - you realise that Haines' claim to have made a nice little "funk-pop" record isn't quite as loony tunes as it sounds.

Most successful, though, is 'Kill Ramirez' which rescues Carlos The J from Black Grape and fleshes him out in a way that combines wit, information (did you know that his underground nickname as 'fatboy'?) and the kind of filthy guitar licks previously only thought audible within George Clinton's Mothership. So enjoy, but pay attention. There may be tests later. 4/5