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In the five years since Creep Show’s acclaimed ‘Mr Dynamite’ album was released it’s fair to say that we’ve all been through a fair bit. Sat here, in 2023, things don’t seem to be getting any better. There's the cost of living crisis and political meltdowns; we're in deep water with global warming and to top it all there’s a war on our doorstep.
Back in 2018 everything seemed less complicated. Sure, there was stuff to get riled about, but we knew nothing about what was to come. ‘Mr Dynamite’ was a fairground ride into the dark corners of a world that was on the brink of being blitzed in a blender. It was a record teetering on the edge. Five years down the line you’d expect the follow-up, ‘Yawning Abyss’, would double-down and bring the white-knuckled, teeth-gritted fury of the last five years to the boil. And yet…
A quick recap? No problem. Wrangler + John Grant = Creep Show. And Creep Show? “A band of musical misfits who have found a voice or two,” says Wrangler’s Ben “Benge” Edwards, whose Bond villain studio on the edge of a moorland is Creep Show Grand Central as well as home to an analogue synth arsenal that could sink ships.
Let’s talk about the new album. What is the ‘Yawning Abyss’? You might well ask. According to Mal, it’s “a cosmic event horizon that I can see from my attic window when stand on a chair”. Yeah. Thanks. “On this album,” offers Benge, feet firmly on the floor, “Wrangler wrangled some vintage synths, mostly Roland, Moog, and the ‘Crystal Machine’ - then John Grant joined in the fun at Memetune Studios where lots of musical experiments were carried out. Then Mal and John ran off to Iceland with the master tapes and recorded a load of madcap vocals. Back at Memetune, me and Phil were left to try and make sense of it all. Which wasn’t hard because what they did in Iceland was totally magnificent.”
Where ‘Mr Dynamite’ was menace, a melange of mangled voices, with Grant and Mallinder being heavily treated, pitched up or down, rendering their contributions largely indistinguishable, ‘Yawning Abyss’ takes a more direct approach. You hesitate to say feelgood, but there’s a skip in the step here for sure.
The title track plays John Grant’s vocal straight. Completely. It’s good, so very good. Like ‘Axel F’ covered by Vangelis. The delicious shimmering synths of ‘Bungalow’ also plays those Grant pipes with a straight bat. ‘Matinee’ delves into darker very funky territory. With Mal upfront it comes on like ‘The Crackdown’. Choice lyric: “You are starting to breakdown / And it’s so fun for me to see / You should have thought of that / You should have come prepared / You can see what’s happening and you look a little scared”.
So, you know, not all feelgood. But it does feel good. It’s probably best to draw your own conclusions. This is Creep Show after all.
Barry says: I've always been a big fan of John Grant, and the dream-team of Stephen Mallinder, Benge and Phill winter of Tunng couldn't be any more perfect a fit for Grant's hypnotic vocal syrup. It's an absolute slam-dunk of an album and ends up sounding a little more like Grant's Pale Green Ghost LP (to me, a pantheon of synthesiser worship) than the also-brilliant hefty haze of their debut. Brilliant.
1. The Bellows
3. Yawning Abyss
8. Steak Diane
9. The Bellows Reprise