Ben Parker, formerly of cult favourites Nosferatu D2, went on to perform as Superman Revenge Squad, an acoustic act with a wry sense of humour, heartfelt lyrics and a great line in self-depreciation. Now, he’s expanded this project into The Superman Revenge Squad Band, which finds his gentle tones and minimal strums backed up by saxophone, accordion, cello and drums. But how will this sprawling sound combine with the observational viewpoints?
Opening with ‘Lately I’ve Found Myself Regressing’, it becomes apparent that the lyrics still remain very much at the fore of the Superman Revenge Squad’s sound. Ben’s forceful vocals are backed by an almost-skiffle sound as he sings the memorable lines: ‘I have to Google myself to see if I exist’ and ‘I’m so indie I could die, I like to underachieve and call it DIY’. He also takes a trip down misery lane as he mentions listening to Anthrax and reading Stephen King when he was just 13, and these subjects of wasted youth, childhood favourite bands and literature are ones that will be returned to again and again over the eight tracks. ‘Kendo Nagasaki’ opens with the sentence: ‘I caught myself crying’ before this gives way to something quite macabre: ‘It makes me happy that you’re not happy. It makes me smile’. The song also contains the greatest Wetherspoons reference in a contemporary pop song since The Rakes hung out in the smoking bit all those years ago, as well as the definitive, and all-too-true, statement: ‘Everything leads to loneliness’.
‘I’ve Gonna Go to Bed and When I Wake Up I’m Gonna Be Someone Else’ lives up to its brilliantly wordy title as Ben reveals all about one of his hangovers in tremendous detail, while also referencing everything from 28 Weeks Later to Dirty Den’s ill-fated return to Eastenders and the more serious issues of bullying and fighting with his parents. He also realises how now in adulthood, he’s realised: ‘There’s more to life than football, and that’s just as well’ and with brilliantly fragile vocals, discusses his late development into maturity: ‘Looking back you were as useless as all that, you once watched the whole of Philadelphia and it didn’t make you cry’. The great titles continue with ‘Flavor Flav’. Why wouldn’t you name a song after a member of Public Enemy? Especially when he’s a driving force in the narrative as Ben discusses a painful break-up amongst a very Frightened Rabbit-style atmosphere: ‘If you leave me, I’d be left like Public Enemy without Flavor Flav, I’ll be functional and records world still sell after all’ before reaffirming this belief by comparing the breakdown to the career of a famous band from Athens, Georgia: ‘And if you leave me, I’ll be left like R.E.M in 1993, there’s good stuff ahead but the best records are behind me, and we’re going to get bigger, we’ll end up headlining Glastonbury, but there’ll be people out there just wanting to hear stuff written before 1993’.
As you pass the halfway point of the album, you realise these are exactly the kind of songs that Rob Fleming/Rob Gordon from High Fidelity would have written if he was given an acoustic guitar, and this tantalising potential continues throughout ‘Paulie in Rocky Three’, an examination of how we all can remember inconsequential things but sometimes struggle with the really important matters. Ben sings how: ‘I’m hoarding stuff I don’t need just to make me feel like I’m still me’, while reminiscing about Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, ‘Billie Jean’, Jimmy Greaves and ‘McDonald’s pies that seemed to last forever’. The scene mentioned in the title of the track also plays an important part, and you can see it below.
With a slightly slower approach, ‘We’re Here for the Duration’ cleverly plays on itself with a lyric about waiting for a train that will never come being perfectly corrected and backed up in a style similar to Jeffrey Lewis: ‘Sometimes only a cliché can convey the things we want to say’. Ben mentions how he wrote a song similar to this one after a two-hour solid session of listening to The Afghan Whigs and also reveals the perfect way of making people appreciate your feelings: ‘So quote it from telly, because it makes much more sense, people understand stuff that comes from Joey from Friends, more than they’d ever know’. The closing track finds Ben ‘getting angrier by the day’ as crashing drums and cello collide in dramatic fashion, complementing the biting lyrics in style. Whether Ben is taking on the character of a mistreated dog or a person who is fed up of being downtrodden is up for debate, but the intensity and mentions of biting face, getting his own back and pitchforks linger… A brilliantly personal album that mixes personal insight, cultural references, self-depreciation and some memorable melodies, it’s a great job The Superman Revenge Squad have no qualms about their place in music, as it makes the songs so much more introspective and powerful: ‘I’m probably never going to be on Desert Island Discs, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all of this is a waste of time’.