“You must trust the fiction,” speak/sings LUKA (aka Luke Kuplowsky) on the spooky guitar flavoured “A Kiss”, suggesting it’s best not to ask or worry about getting hurt by going in for the “sweet escape” of a smooch. Like an older kid on the corner, offering up forbidden temptations, his nonchalant “go ahead try it, it won’t hurt you attitude” makes the whole exchange seem harmless, until halfway through the song, with an inebriated drawl, Kuplowsky admits a kiss “…is a habit I cannot quit.”
Therein lies the the deceptive heart of Summon Up a Money King, Kuplowsky’s seductive sophomore album. For every intensely expressed emotion, there’s an equally subversive self-mocking aside. If love is poison, then LUKA’s witty one-liners are its antidote. Kuplowsky sings with conviction, calling to mind the likes of Leonard Cohen. Yet, as deadpan and stoic as his delivery is, he’s also like the best stand-up comedians: a storyteller who engages your interest and catches you off guard with wit and humour. It’s these Kuplowsky ‘KUPOW!’ moments–like singing “I could offer you some advice in songwriting / though I am not a reliable source,” on a song titled “Never Write About the Women You Love”–that endears this musical trickster to listeners.
That’s exactly who the Monkey King is, an old Chinese archetypical trouble maker who never takes himself as seriously as others do. All throughout the album, LUKA is self-referential, self-aware, and self-checking. When things get heavy and vividly real on the devastatingly sombre “Always The Same Bed”, he breaks the tension by actually inserting a comical pigeon coo and cat mewing to punctuate his lyrics. Then almost immediately, and without so much as a wry smirk, he’s back on topic, bringing to life the stark realization that a physical relationship has gone sour with acute detail and eloquence.
Whether a glutton for puns and punishment or a love dependent poet, LUKA knows that to live greatly is to love wholly. Summon Up a Monkey King proves he’s not afraid to get rough with it in the corners. As “You Must Be Open” brings proceedings to a close, Kuplowsky saves his most sage and sincere advice for one final, powerful punch’: “You must be open to the magic of the night, / For when you notice that certain spark / you must not lose it, no / you must find it in the dark, / and you must carry all the love that has expired / for love never dies, it just builds a greater fire.” KUPOW!