There’s a reason why Creeper’s ongoing success seems to hold so much more weight than their contemporaries, and that’s because they’re able to bring a sense of creativity that’s entirely their own. Especially lately on Sex, Death & The Infinite Void, making the jump from punk to Americana and dark country could’ve been a dicey move for a less confident band, or one more reliant on adhering to the rubric of the scene around them, regardless of how well they might do that. But for Creeper, a band who’ve been smashing expectations and proving themselves to be titans of modern British music since day dot, that commitment and knowledge of what makes that sound tick payed the remarkable dividends that others simply couldn’t have mustered, or even attempted. It’s a testament to the broadness that Creeper’s music heritage encapsulates, where their punk side is more in spirit now, and replaced by deeper, more resonant shades of gothic and theatrical music. And the fact they made that leap on only their second album shows how deeply that self-assuredness runs; there’s not been a sense of playing the game with Creeper, rather them forging their own path entirely. Of course, the point of that entire spiel has been made time and time again, but it always feels worth reiterating whenever Creeper do really anything, because their compulsion and drive to one-up themselves each time never doesn’t feel impressive. It’s just great to have a band like this in the current scene, especially who can release an EP like American Noir after a relatively brief period between their last full-length, in what simultaneously feels like a victory lap, and yet another expansion of their sound.
It goes without saying that it’s great; anything less than that is probably something that Creeper just don’t have in their skill set. But what makes American Noir special is how it does feel like something more than just an extension on their previous album, and how that’s markedly more than just another bit of spin. The looks forward are already being made, as is the sonic evolutions that feel so palpable, even on such a short release. Even for a teaser of what’s to come, the ease with which Creeper slide into whatever’s in their path is nigh on impossible to deny, such is the case on American Noir, where the size and theatrics are just as pronounced but hint at something even grander. It’s quite frankly amazing they’re at this stage already, but at the same time, it’s totally undeniable; Creeper feel truly one of a kind in the modern scene, and it’s music like this that just adds more fuel to that argument.
What’s most interesting of all is how uncanny these songs feel as simultaneously an evolution, and also a refocusing on influences and ideas that have always been there in some capacity. This time, it’s pretty much full attention paid to the theatrics and opulence, where the Meat Loaf comparisons are more apt than ever and are sold wonderfully. It does help that Creeper have a knack for tones and melodies that do feel familiar, but always grow and open up into their own thing; the solemn piano that opens Midnight feels very Meat Loaf in its cold, moonlit glamour, while the chorus of Ghosts Over Calvary is pure Pat Benatar in just how explosive it is, and how Hannah Greenwood is given what might be her first opportunity to really let loose as a vocalist. The gift for melody this band has is unavoidable, where it’s definitely retro in its touchstones without sounding even a degree dated, or sacrificing the excitement of the modern wave in which they’re in. A lot of that comes down to just how ironclad their central musical premise is; it’s got the rustic Americana feel of Sex, Death & The Infinite Void, paired with a bit more rock moodiness and showmanship thanks to the added pianos and gloriously rich production. To slide into rock opera territory, this is the basis to use, especially when there’s the stark chiaroscuro image that portrays the waltz of America At Night, or the roiling dirge of One Of Us that walks the perfect line between tension and unspooling freedom. Perhaps they lean a bit too far into that notion with the interlude tracks (especially Frozen Night which feels like an uncharacteristically abortive to end on), but on the actual songs here, Creeper are going into their creative process with all guns blazing once again. Even just in the sound of it, where the bass and guitar have such a warmth and crunch, and production across the board is varnished and glamourous yet weighty, it’s big and expensive in such an engaging way, and coming from an EP that could’ve easily been some compiled leftovers, it says mountains about the dedication to the craft that Creeper have.
More than that though—and more so than ever at this stage—the fact that Creeper feels so flagrantly like a passion project for all involved contributes immeasurably to how excellent this is. Will Gould has always had the voice for this material, with a tone that can be austere and authorial before ploughing straight ahead into total bombast, and placing Hannah Greenwood in the Lorraine Crosby role gives the likes of Midnight and Damned And Doomed that sense of dynamics that those old Meat Loaf songs had. Of course, given that she always shines incandescently on her solo cuts, Ghosts Over Calvary was always going to hit, but fitting the mould in the vein of Ann Wilson or, as mentioned previously, Pat Benetar just has such a coolness to it that she embodies effortlessly. It’s the theatrical unashamedly melodramatic side of Creeper shining through once again, and embracing that as wholeheartedly as they do is where that insane degree of likability comes from. The thing is that these songs aren’t all that different from the last two album’s worth—unrequited, vampiric love set to the backdrop of a moon-drenched small town, where the end of the world is fast approaching—but the overflowing gumption and pure drive they’re delivered with just makes it hit every time. On an EP that doesn’t even crack 20 minutes, there are still hooks and standout lines for days, where the personalities of Gould and Greenwood’s respective characters feel so refined and expertly crafted. It’s not boring either, which for a band digging back in their old well, it could very well be, but Creeper once again exercise their keen eye for hitting a sweet spot that makes everything fall into place.
Well, maybe not everything given that the interludes don’t add much overall, but that’s the smallest, faintest black mark on this band’s pristine name, given everything else they’ve accomplished on this short release alone. They’re moving at an astounding pace right now, and a next step that’s already as assured as this really stokes the fire for whatever comes next, where Creeper’s next opus will undoubtedly feel just as natural and just well-crafted and balanced as what they’ve got here. When this is ostensibly a preview and it leapfrogs over a good number of bands’ actual full bodies of work, that’s when you know you’ve got a truly special band. But that doesn’t need to be said again; that sort of praise is everyday fare for Creeper, and by now, everyone knows that it’s true. American Noir just serves to solidify it more on the off chance that was even needed, or alternatively, serve as an opportunity for one of the best bands around to add a few more smashes into a catalogue that’s practically exclusively smashes. Either way, Creeper continue to display how utterly remarkable they are, and as long as they keep doing so, it’s going to be reiterated, time and time again.
For fans of: Meat Loaf, Pat Benatar, My Chemical Romance
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘American Noir’ by Creeper is out now on Roadrunner Records.