Like most ardent My Chemical Romance fans I have been looking for a band to fill the gaping hole in the music industry left by their breakup.
I think such a band may have been found. The six-piece horror-punk outfit Creeper have stepped up to the plate with their debut album, and do not disappoint in delivering the musical equivalent of being punched in the face at a performance of Hamlet. As with many of the best albums, attributing it to a single genre proves incredibly difficult with their influences being drawn from pop-punk, goth rock, punk, metal, pop and even country. Will Gould (Singer) has frequently cited Jim Steinman, whose works include the production of records by Meatloaf and Bonnie Tyler and several contributions to musicals, as a major influence. This is fitting given the sense of theatrical grandeur and dark bombast that permeates the record. They aren’t, however, suffocated by their influences and maintain their own unique style and original spin on old ideas throughout.
Thematically EIYA spans death, murder, loss, mental illness, aging and breakup but it isn’t a depressing album. If anything, the rawness on songs like Room 309 and Crickets is uplifting. They keep in voice cracks and the howls on Poison Pens, creating an undercurrent of catharsis which leaves you thrilled rather than saddened by the seemingly depressing subject matter. Darling, an Alkaline Trio inspired song, features a smile-inducingly upbeat vocal melody and poppy riffs which greatly contrast the lyrics about drinking poison and the inevitability of dying alone, creating a carefree feel to the track again making dark themes sound cheerful.
Creeper have produced a concept record, normally the territory of bands well into their career. But, despite the fact they’ve never made an album together, it comes off refreshing and exciting. The concept of the horror-punk album stems from Disney of all places. The characters within the record have their roots in Peter Pan. The Stranger, a metaphor for mental illness, is based on the tick-tock of the crocodile. James Scythe, the missing paranormal investigator who injured his left hand in the car crash that caused his wife’s death, is obsessed with the idea of finding out the truth behind Creeper’s mystery, much like Captain Hook is obsessed by Peter’s ability to remain young. All of the songs on the album are written from the viewpoints of the different characters, except for I Choose To Live. In this rare break in character Gould and co. attempt to give something to fans who have problems they feel they aren’t qualified to deal with. A move that might appear arrogant or pretentious comes off totally genuine with the stripped back format, focusing upon the vocals and therefore the lyrics: “life don’t seem so dark when I sing with you… I choose to live”. The song is a direct message to their many young fans whose problems are healed momentarily by the music of a truly sincere band.
Something very noteworthy about EIYA is the pacing which not only swings dramatically between songs, but within them, creating a rise and fall effect. The fast, poppy Down Below slows down mid-song for a very creepy version of the chorus (“He’ll come to see you in the window of your home to take you to the river down below”), before fading back into a bombastic ending worthy of a West End musical. Another track with amazing pace variation is Room 309. It starts as a speedy pop-punk track before intensifying and becoming even faster, only to then transition to Gould singing a slower verse as Hannah Greenwood joins him on the vocals and providing the song with a haunting ending. Greenwood really steals the show at times; her piano contribution to Black Rain adds significantly to its heavy feel whilst the venom in her intermittent cry of “darling just you shut your pretty mouth” really cuts to the core of the listener. Crickets is perhaps the standout track with regards to how different it is: Gould is gone and replaced by Hannah on main vocals and violin, creating a bleeding heart of a country track that miraculously doesn’t sound out of place on a punk record. Beneath the glamour and the country tracks, however, the band haven’t compromised on the punk side. Poison Pens is their heaviest track to date, featuring the howling refrain “our love is dead” over pounding drums. Suzanne is an adrenaline rush of a track with a chorus introduced by the whole band screaming, and a brilliant breakdown over which Gould depicts a siege scenario that ends as the perpetrators “die holding hands”.
If I were to offer one criticism it would be the fact that Misery is back again, not that it in itself is bad: it’s a wise move to take one of the best jewels in their already impressive crown and carry it forward to the album so it isn’t lost in the depths of their discography. But, the slightly adjusted version with more instrumentation seems a bit unnecessary. It does build to a more dramatic ending, which was perhaps unnecessarily intended to make it fit in more. I don’t know why they chose to try and improve on such a beautifully gut-wrenching song. That aside, Creeper are the most exciting band in modern rock and the future looks bright for this truly unique outfit.