“The joyous bay of a hound at play,The caw of a rook on its homeward way,
Oh these shall be the music for me
For I love, I love the path of the free,”
(“I Love, I Love the Free” – Eliza Cook 1818-1889)
Recommended Tracks: ‘Lunacy’, ‘Mantra 29’
Lupen Crook is ridiculously prolific. In October of last year we were treated to “The Pros and Cons of Eating Out”, and now we get “Waiting for the Postman” and the songs are wonderful leaving the listener, again, in awe. The man can’t stop throwing out killer songs, killer tunes, and an awesome profusion of ideas that are nigh on incomparable to other music.
The mood of this collection is elegiac. He deals with lost childhood and lost friends, and to a touching degree with lost dreams. It’s personal, located in the Medway towns where he grew up, (The Dirty Mile between Rochester and Chatham), the underpasses where he hung out with friends now gone, smoking and joking, and drinking Shiraz, which sounds a bit sophisticated for the Chatham I know, but still… and through it all runs the thread of Lupen’s own mythos; the dragons he chases across the sky, relationships steeped in distrust and paranoia, the parks that might be graveyards, and crows. The ghosts of Elvis and Jim Morrison, and at the end of it all, crows.
Skeins of delicate guitar leaven the songs, jaunty fairground effects, a sort of doomy reggae vibe on “Cold Alone”, and swirls of synth all over “Hard Times”, that gives the collection lots of variety and interest, but primarily, there are rays of gorgeous song-writing that swim out of his bleakest lyrics. My favourite line is in the supremely hummable “Lunacy”, the tale of a street kid called Luna who doesn’t care about the despair that surrounds her since “her light side shines golden when the dawn breaks through”.
Stand-out tracks are “Mantra 29”, featuring exquisite rippling guitar, “Lunacy”, and “A Little More Blood On The Tracks” which is perhaps the best story-telling on the album, addressing an old friend, the childhood they shared, the love they’ve moved past, telling their story simply and honestly because “every life that dies deserves a song”.
The poem that heads this review in Mark Cocker’s book “Crow Country”. Eliza Cook lived in the Kentish village of Lewisham, not so far from the Medway. For her, crows represented freedom. It is unclear what they are to Lupen, not freedom certainly, but something crucial. Something about crowding possibilities and choices extinguished when they’ve been made, and creativity and regret. Something important and worth attending to.