Lupen Crook – British Folk Tales

Lupen Crook’s career launched around this time in 2005, with his aptly titled single “Halloween” and accompanying EP Petals Fresh from Road Kill. The music literally barked at the moon, wagged its finger at contemporary ragamuffin acts and pushed Lupen’s trademark unconventional vocal alongside eccentric lyrics about unorthodox injuries, childhood nightmares and social injustice. Though understated, Crook soon found a scene forming around his work, with fellow Medway artists like Kid Harpoon chomping at the bit to join in.

Since then and to his credit Crook has continued to practice what he preaches, veering away from the mainstream at every turn and touching on topics the PC crew avoid like hell fire. A prolific artist, unfortunately there has been the occasional dip in quality. Last time this reviewer approached one of Crook’s records she had to admit she was underwhelmed, quoting of 2011’s Waiting for the Post-Man a shipwreck that was at once “alarmingly inoffensive, off the cuff and peculiarly lifeless”. Many established fans agreed, and the album made a tin clatter before promptly being resigned to the bottom of the pile.

Crook could have taken a deep breath and ploughed on, but fortunately the artist returns to form on British Folk Tales. Back with a new label, the Preservation Society, and a reboot of spirit suggested in both the title and cover of this album, it rounds off with the welcome clatter of a cat flap being smashed across the already broken remains of a guitar.

“Treasons to be Beautiful” and “Herding Cats” embody the crux of Lupen’s success: perverse lyrics that spit anger in the direction of the right, middle and faux-left are back, alongside the sheen of lo-fi and garage recording that littered his Iscariot the Ladder demos. “The Wider World” takes things a step further, as the song kicks back towards the “Junk ’n’ Jubilee” sound, while “My Mistaken Angel” harks towards “22 You and the Sa-10 Sounds”. Undeniably punk, bitter and twisted, the electronic aspects of British Folk Tales remove from an otherwise easy comparison to Accidents Occur While Sleeping.

Thanks to some outstanding back peddling, weaker moments only reveal themselves under scrutiny. “Note to Self” has some basic song writing clichés, not to mention obvious lyrics, and “Crumb Tails” sounds like all the four-lads-in-a-band acts Lupen originally stood against. Some moments, too, sound a little forced, as though the songwriter knows he needs to emulate a sound he left behind a few years ago and can no longer produce naturally.

Overall British Folk Tales can be considered a triumph for those fans that miss classic Lupen. Ramming his gearbox into reverse does imply Lupen has succumbed to the albeit well meaning pressure of his fans, and therefore lost sight of his previously confident trailblazing, but everyone and anyone can forgive some uncharacteristic sincerity in light of what’s on offer here.

Release: 29th October 2012, The Preservation Society

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