[Arts & Crafts; 2011]

Creep On Creepin’ On sounds like the soundtrack to a horror movie: fraught strings, plinking pianos, moaning vocals – but instead of soundtracking a horror movie, they’re used by Taylor Kirk to exorcise his inner demons. Creep On Creepin’ On is an album about a man losing faith in himself, and exploring the dark side of his psyche.

The bulk of the album details a man on the edge of sanity, obsessing over females, and seemingly taking a carnivorous view of sex. A woman is the necessity, but Kirk’s character knows that the only way he can get what he needs is through foul play. The character makes no attempt to disguise the fact that he is sinking into a black pool of despair, loathing, and evil, but across the album he seems to schizophrenically switch between reveling in this darkness, and praying to get away from it. “It’s a bad, bad ritual, but it calms me down,” he admits on the opener, and he resigns to “creep on creepin’ on” on the title track. However, on “Black Water” he pleads “all I need is some sunshine,” seemingly desperate to escape the encroaching darkness in his mind. When things seem to be getting too intense on “Too Old To Die Young,” he promises that he’s “giving it all up,” only to lapse back into obsession by the end of the album. The emotional struggle presented through the album is affecting, though you can never be sure whether to sympathise or be wary. Kirk’s trembling, echoing vocals marry perfectly with the words to create this weak and confused being.

The supernatural clings to this album, from its title to its cover, through the music and into the lyrics, where there are references to poltergeists, zombies and incantations, to name a few. In the universe of this schizophrenic’s paranoid thoughts, all of these things are real, and for the listener, the music brings them to life. Each song is based around simple blues-tinged folk, but it’s the additional instrumentation that adds an edge. Throughout the album sharp, shrill notes played at opportune moments cut like a knife in the disquieting air of the music, jumping out at you unexpectedly. At should-be serene moments, such as the conclusion of “Lonesome Hunter,” there is no feeling of being able to relax because of the quietly encroaching atonal strings constantly lurking in the mix. Dabbles with brass add to the noir aura and add punch to the band’s all-round sound. Sometimes this adds sexiness to the proceedings, such as the smooth sax on “Creep On Creepin’ On,” or at others intensifying the jitters, like the squealing sax and baritone horns at the exaggerated ending of “Do I Have Power.”

Truly the only weak tracks on Creep On Creepin’ On are the interludes, of which there are three. They seem to be little more than sound collages, capturing all of the ideas that have gone into all of the other songs, but adding nothing, meandering for two or three minutes at a time with no direction. They do a good job of maintaining the aural theme, but are essentially superfluous.

Creep On Creepin’ On plays out like a trashy horror-musical, with a central character in the throes of despair, fighting with his own desires and, ultimately, losing. The effort put into creating the dark atmosphere is gratuitous, but in the context of the album it works perfectly. Add to this the fact that every song carries a killer hook and you have one of the must-hear albums of the year.