Dead Crow Blues is the fourth release by Superman Revenge Squad; a moniker that essentially acts as a display-cabinet for Ben Parker’s considerable talents as a singer, songwriter, guitarist and participant in life’s rich pageantry. He’s joined (as always) by Martin Webb on Cello, but Mr.Parker remains centre-stage.
Purveyors of his previous work will uncover a record that is far more Ben-centric than anything that has come before. Sure, the protagonists who inhabited his earlier material – like Kevin Rowland and Kendo Nagasaki – were players on a wider-stage for his thoughts and feelings. But here masks and subterfuge have less of a role to play whilst storytelling. These songs are rooted in the reality of personal changes brought upon by life’s events, including discarding the trappings of youth and the death of pets. It’s an intimate, but whistle-stop tour, of the goings on behind the doors of the Parker residence.
Things start fairly leisurely, but by track three the acoustic guitar shifts up a gear to provide a jaunty backdrop for the recollection of an old man feverishly flicking through pornography in a newsagent. Featuring the line “Guess a pornographic magazine is a little bit like a time-travelling machine” it suggests that from differing perspectives top shelf publications are a gateway to what is to come (for the young) and what once was (to the old). Encapsulating the passing of time so eloquently in song, he is both poignant and hilarious – often within a single sentence.
The pace continues through ‘Yeah This House Is Haunted’ where the memories of a suicide victim leech into the head of a new homeowner. The song begins with the sorry details that lead toward the decision to end it all, before pulling back to reveal every house as haunted by someone or something. For some, the suggestion that Great Uncle Roy is watching our every movement may be a touch uncomfortable. But the loneliness that leads to the ultimate sacrifice is heart-wrenchingly real.
The macabre subject material might seem too dismal; especially in today’s fragmented and arduous world. But sometimes focusing on death can make broken phone chargers or lost car keys pale in comparison. If kittens dancing with balloons don’t cheer you up, this might.
Once again Ben has created a body of work that many listeners will find instant kinship with. These are tales infused with a humour and vivacity that few other songwriters can touch. Yet, for some reason, Superman Revenge Squad remain on the outskirts of many people’s musical awareness. It’s time to let their gloomy-yet-inspirational therapy remind you that things aren’t that bad after all.