Tuesday 30 October 2012

Lupen Crook - British Folk Tales

Album review by KevW

Lupen Crook's music has been described as many things during his career, and "folk" is certainly one of them. His latest solo offering (he's minus his Murderbirds here and recorded most of the instrumentation himself, including taking control of the production) has a slightly misleading title, but I guess that depends on your own personal interpretation of what constitutes folk music. 'British Folk Music' doesn't offer olde-worlde lyrics and curious vocal intonations, it's not full of fiddles and it doesn't make you think of beards and woolly jumpers. In fact there's not really a stereotype in sight, except perhaps that much of the album makes use of an acoustic guitar, but rarely a guitar on its own. He's part Ian Dury, part Joe Strummer and part The Good, The Bad & The Queen-era Damon Albarn.

Crook has shunned the mainstream at a time when he had the opportunity to jump on the nu-folk bandwagon and you suspect that even the thought of doing such a thing would make his blood boil. From the off, 'The Counting Song' combines acoustics with rock, garage and even a hint of baggy; what follows is equally eclectic and if it is to be described using the f-word then the term "anti-folk" would be much more appropriate. Crook's lyrics are cutting, political and witty in equal measure, with angry backing vocals employed at points, including single 'Treasons To Be Beautiful' in which he conjures up a dark, swirling and biting attack on the state of things. As the song screeches to a halt you know that the vitriol he's used on past records very much remains.

'Crumb Trails' is an rare moment of tenderness and reflection that's very sweet despite it being a contemplation of suicide: "you couldn't love me if you tried, I'm just a streetlamp to you on a starry night... I'm on top of the world and I'm gonna jump, so baby don't break my fall, just give my regards to all the friends that I forgot to call". It's soul-baring stuff that kicks aside any notions that his music is fuelled by fury alone. Following it is the similarly personal and rather majestic 'Note To Self; this majesty reappears on the poppy 'If You Love Me Come The Morning' and contemplative closer 'Human Remains'. The surreal and spooky 'Herding Cats' even displays a playful side and helps mark 'British Folk Tales' as one of the most varied and interesting album's he's made thus far. It shows versatility and a well-founded confidence that means, whatever the genre, Lupen Crook is one of our most individual and maybe undervalued songwriters.

Lupen Crook's website

Buy the album

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