By Megan Cooper
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American Noir, Creeper’s sixth EP and epilogue to their second album which stormed the UK charts to no.5 last year, lays down the gauntlet in a musical experience of undeniable drama, scope and ambition that surely signals this British rock band as one of the genre’s most exciting new acts.
Developing on from the story of Sex, Death & The Infinite Void, the band lean further into their signature gothic subject matter and themes, finding a paradoxical joy and ease in the sadness and intensity; the music seems to have succumbed to and embraced completely the dark that they sing of and wrestle within previous work. American Noir is a cathartic journey to hell and (perhaps; it almost seems moot when it sounds so good) back again.
The production of the EP calls on the spirit of the late Jim Steinman to dazzling effect. Heavy use of piano riffs, electric guitar solos, and stylized vocals evokes the theatricality and drama of the golden era of 70s glam rock. The sound revels in ‘sex, death and the infinite void / The very thoughts we’re taught to avoid’, lines from the 2020 album that in light of the EP seem like a challenge accepted.
Ghosts over Calvary and Midnight are stand out tracks on the album with rousing, anthemic choruses, the former toying with the more theatrical arrangements of Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell album at its best. The unique vocal display on Midnight is a fulsome statement of intent, reminiscent of the combinations of vocals throughout the seminal 1973 album. Each of the vocalists holds their own – Will Gould’s angsty belt juxtaposed with Hannah Greenwood’s haunting clarity is particularly poignant – to create a melting pot of a song that at no point apologizes for its apparent influences, campness or sentiment.
The legacy of the emo-pop vocals of the bands of the noughties is alive and well in Gould, and the dreamy easiness of Taylor Swift’s songwriting is evoked in Doomed and Damned. Where Sex, Death & The Infinite Void sonically at times lulled into the safety of the pop-rock of the band’s contemporaries, this EP feels exploratory, embodying the spoken word interludes that interjected the full-length album with extra drama and intrigue. That album feels more tied to the idea of living, but this EP is borne out of the afterlife: there’s nothing to lose.
The waltzing American at Night and balladic Damned and Doomed go some way to locate the world of the EP as our own: ‘She’s Coca-Cola red / And I’m Pepsi-Cola blue’, ‘fumble with your belt as the ice caps melt’. It’s a world of infinite promise but finite possibility. It necessitates an urgency (‘We’ll live until we’re 25’) that ultimately proves futile (‘I never knew the golden state / Could ever feel so cold’). American Noir aches for a youthful timelessness, to live forever in a moment of love that seems doomed to end before it has begun. There’s an all too visceral feeling of you-and-me-against-the-world that is a scaffold for the gothic, fantastical imagery and unabashed rhymes: ‘All the stars will die, the oceans will melt / So take me now while the gods can’t hear us’, ‘Lost in the darkness, they’re coming to kill us / Guess I was born to die with you.’
The intensity of this core thematic concern is repeated and respected in every bar and lyric. The music’s existence across time periods and genres also speaks to the idea of creating forever out of a fleeting moment; the rich cinematic world of the EP surely goes some way to achieving this. It’s a thesis on the best vampiric love stories ever told (see Buffy and Angel), and it is music at its best; an articulation, an extravagance, and a coping mechanism.
I’m reminded of a line in Meatloaf’s Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth: ‘And will he starve without me?’ This EP has a hunger and ambition to it that finds superlative weight in all-consuming young love in an uncertain world. I can’t wait to see what this band does next.
Illustration by Verity Laycock