Wednesday, November 29, 2017

CD Odyssey Disc 1077: The Creepshow

I’m going for a tattoo consultation tomorrow so it’s only fitting that this is the second album in a row featuring artists with a lot of ink.

Disc 1077 is…They All Fall Down
Artist: The Creepshow

Year of Release: 2010

What’s up with the Cover? Lead singer Sarah “Sin” Blackwood plows a lug right in the kisser in an underground fight scene right outta the fifties.

How I Came To Know It: I went to buy their most recent release “Death at My Door” at my local record store in anticipation of their upcoming concert (album and show were both reviewed back at Disc 1065) but they didn’t have it in stock. They had this one though, which was also on my list.

How It Stacks Up:  I have two Creepshow albums, this one and the aforementioned “Death at My Door”. Of the two, I give the edge to “They All Fall Down”.

Ratings: 3 stars

When you make a record you have to be mindful of first and last impressions – they’re important. “They All Fall Down” makes major missteps on both counts but the quality of what’s in the middle makes the record a fun ride nonetheless.

Creepshow is a psychobilly band, which mixes punk, rockabilly and horror themes. It is highly theatrical stuff (even on the studio recording) and it’s important that the lead singer has the charisma to pull it off. This is Creepshow’s first album featuring Sarah Blackwood, replacing sister Jen. Like her sister, Sarah Blackwood has a great combination of stage presence and big vocals. In psychobilly range isn’t what’s important, it’s tone, power and delivery and Sarah has it all.

The band is solid, with Sean McNab’s big standup base holding down the jump-swing rhythm that can wreck this music if done poorly, but is what makes the magic when done right. The whole band does a good job of staying in the pocket and making you want to jump around or sway your hips, depending on the tempo of the moment.

I like that psychobilly features horror-themed lyrics. They work in the basic rock and roll themes of love, rebellion and road trips but the metaphors they use to explore those themes tend to be loaded with blood and murder. Horror is a great genre to explore the extreme, and in doing so show some common aspects of human nature in a new light. It’s an underrated artistic medium.

Here you have lost love interpreted as murder (“Sleep Tight”) and road trips associated with being damned to hell (“Hellbound”) and it makes it a fun and fanciful journey. Not actual murder and damnation, obviously – it is just pretend.

Sleep Tight” is my favourite, a song in a fifties or early sixties crooner style, suitable for slow dancing with your gal at the local dance hall under the watchful gaze of some fusty old chaperones. Hopefully the chaperones don’t listen to the lyrics, though, since this song is about a guy who murders his girlfriend and buries her under the floor. She gets her revenge by haunting him for eternity. Sarah Blackwood is a delightful combination of romantic and creepy as she sings:

“Oh sleep tight my boy
You shoulda thought it out
Oh you can’t kill a girl without her soul stickin’ around
Oh sleep tight my boy, I’ll be watching you…
With undead eyes.”

Hellbound” is a glorious Dropkick-Murphy sing-a-long, which acknowledges you might be trapped for days in a smelly van with your band mates, but don’t forget how much fun you’re having doing what you love. I’m always happy when the young realize how great it is to be young.

While these songs stand out a lot of the others have a very similar feel that takes away a lot of dynamics of the band. If you like the Creepshow’s signature sound it is a good thing, because you are going to get a lot of it. I think it is a good time, but the record is a little short (I guess that is the punk influence) and after two days of it I felt I’d heard them a few too many times. That isn’t how great music is supposed to work, although I can’t point to specific songs that annoyed me. They are all solid, even if they don’t all rate “best tracks” status.

The real issue with this record is the intro and outro. The intro is a short spoken word poem delivered in a way that makes you realize the poet thinks they are way more clever than they are. Titled “The Sermon III” (because earlier albums also begin with sermons) hearing it once was once too often, and it doesn’t add anything to the record’s ambience or thematic approach.

Worse is the last track, “Road to Nowhere.” If only the song had been a road to nowhere. Instead after five minutes of dead air it starts up again with a “hidden recording” featuring a very bad prank call to a record company. The band obviously thinks they are the second coming of the Jerky Boys here, but they just come off as jerks. I’m hoping there is some backstory to this call that makes this more hilarious, but since I didn’t know that backstory, I just found it annoying.

Despite this, I think there is enough solid content on “They All Fall Down” to warrant three stars. It’s a fun record with good energy and tongue-in-cheek humour that – when they stick to singing – typically finds the mark.

Best tracks: Last Chance, Sleep Tight, Hellbound

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