Lupen Crook – How Rotten the Teeth (Beast Reality/Pretty Ugly Records)
Fifteen years ago, Lupen Crook was in NME’s Cool List. As with all lists this ultimately meant nothing,
but in a list of popstars and poseur frontmen is was interesting to see a troubadour included. His
hear releases had more in common with Patrik Fitzgerald than gauche, and decadent, (landfill) indie bands. This was of course the year where The Alex Turner, Pete Doherty, and Johnny Borrell and Kele Okereke were king.
Crook weathered this storm and released one of the defining albums of the period, his debut Accidents Occur Whilst Sleeping. After that he formed The Murderbirds and released one of the finest avant-garage punk albums Iscariot The Ladder, then went solo again releasing three more albums, dabbled with dubstep, before re-emerging in 2016 as one half of the provocative electro-pop duo SEX CELLS. Now Crook has released the follow up to 2012’s British Folk Tales with the gloriously wonky How Rotten the Teeth.
From the opening Prog motifs of ‘Westmoor Farm Ghosts’ you realise this isn’t the same Crook we
saw in 2012. His songs are laced with field recordings, hypnotic drones, and psychedelic motifs. However, what is the same are Crook’s deeply sardonic lyrics. “Could you bear the weight of his up- cycled crucifix?” and “Did you stroke your chin in submission of his unpopular modern art?” show
he’s lost none of his biting charm. ‘Sorry for the Mess’, ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and ‘Simple Creatures’
feel like a throwback to his electronic work with Markomen. When he delivers the line “A simple switch in your brain, whilst you’re cleaning the kitchen. So, let’s build a house, where the walls don’t keep secrets” feels like one of the finest things he’s ever penned. ‘Have You Got My Back, Brother?’
sounds like a song for Elvis, or Johnny Cash. There is a vague country, ‘On Top of Old Smokie’, twang
to it that immediately makes it catchy and hide the darker lyrical flourishes, “Remember what you told me? No sleep till we die”, that are one of Crook’s trademarks.
There are downsides to the album. Due to Crook’s distinctive vocals, and playing style, some of the
songs sounds similar to his previous one. ‘Magdalene’ is reminiscent of ‘The World’s End’. This isn’t really a massive problem. Thematically Crook isn’t going over old ground. Both songs are totally
different, but there are slight similarities.
Crook has come a long way since 2005. But at the same time, he hasn’t. The songs on How Rotten the Teeth have a lot in common with Accidents Occur Whilst Sleeping and Petals Fresh from the Roadkill. They show someone who has been around the block a few more times. He’s been up, but
mostly down. Kicked around the country but he hasn’t lost that spark that set him apart from his
peers who jacked it in when it got too hard after their initial buzz had died off. But Crook has never
been interested in that scene. He’s an artist, rather than a pop star. This has always been his
problem and possibly why mass recognition alluded him. But in all fairness be probably never really
want it. He’d rather be the guy on the fringes making interesting stuff, rather than worrying about
chart placement and column inches. And How Rotten the Teeth reflects this. Its tracks are filled
with questioning lyrics, melancholic melodies, and slightly skewed compositions. “Catch Your Breath” Crook croons on ‘Alarm of St. Paul’s’ “There’s work to be done”. Sadly, there is. The work never bloody ends, but in Crook we have a champion to work on tirelessly regardless of how bad, or rotten, it gets.
God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.