Creep Show

Yawning Abyss

The latest from John Grant and Wrangler gives Jeremy Allen the creeps

The thing about Creep Show is that it creeps up on you. 2018’s Mr Dynamite demonstrated signs of promise, and now, five years later, Creep Show’s second album Yawning Abyss reaches further into your soul, and once there, it really gets to work, rummaging furtively and stealthily metastasising. The more spins, the more you submit to its charms.

Back in 2018, just the thought of an alliance between the sonorous Michigan singer songwriter John Grant and Stephen Mallinder’s electronic oddballs Wrangler was enough to stir up a sense of anticipation. There’s no element of surprise this time, though talk of incongruous alliances or unlikely supergroups has dissipated as Creep Show has surreptitiously become its own thing. It’s certainly a great advert for allowing working relationships with clear signs of potential to evolve unimpeded.

The world has clearly been unravelling at a frightening pace in that time, and the worse things get, the more apposite this darkly entertaining four-piece seems to become. That pain-pleasure paradox is addressed on the title track, with a hint of a crafty wink from Grant singing over a buoyant electro track not dissimilar to George Michael’s ‘I Want Your Sex’: “Come jump with me into the maw of the great yawning abyss / don’t be silly now, you know you’ve always wanted this.”

The initial creative approach for the followup wasn’t that dissimilar to a Wangler album. Music was created from scratch in Benge’s Memetune Studios replete with its array of analogue synths and vintage drum machines. Musically it was strong – as we now know – but it was when Mal and Grant worked on the material at the latter’s Reykjavik base that the real transubstantiation took place.

A cast of characters began to suggest themselves, some of whom are shysters like the fast talking cryptocurrency pusher on ‘Moneyback’. Mallinder gets in on the act himself, rolling back the years on tracks like ‘Matinee’, which harks back to peak Cabaret Voltaire, but even then, Grant’s vocoder accompaniment brings some sonic bas-relief to the acid techno landscape. ‘The Bellows’ and its reprise bookend the album in moody, foreboding fashion, with lyrics about bombs dropping and rockets leaving their silos, though its resemblance to the Knight Rider theme was surely lost on nobody when they were making it.

The high point though – undoubtedly – is ‘Bungalow’, oozing West Hollywood noir, palm trees and David Lynch. “Streamlined silhouette, traces of cologne and smoke,” croons Grant in a strange reverie where Dean Martin meets Dean Blunt, though the song takes a sinister turn while the music maintains its protective shell. “You can’t forget what you saw when you were just sixteen,” he sings, perhaps in the second person, as the world moves on and the nasty stain is erased. It’s too early to call it but it might just be the most extraordinary song of the year. It certainly creeps up on you.

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