I’ve had a good week of new music. Last weekend I bought the new Beck album “Colours” the new Pack A.D. album “Dollhouse” and a 2009 Tragically Hip album called “We Are the Same.” Then a few days earlier I received a CD in the mail direct from folk artist Shelley Short. Shelley seemed like a genuine, decent human being and even wrote me a personalized note so she’s the winner for “best fan appreciation” moment. I hope she comes to town and I’ll gladly go see her live.
Speaking of live shows, as promised I went to see Burlington, Ontario band “The Creepshow” on Monday, and I’ve been spending the last two days listening to their newest album. Here is my review of the album, followed immediately by my review of the live show.
Disc 1065 is…Death at My Door
Artist: The Creepshow
Year of Release: 2017
What’s up with the Cover? Door-mouth! This cover is wicked and stylish, which is how I like my covers. It also made for a great concert t-shirt, which I bought at the show. More on that later.
How I Came To Know It: A few weeks ago, my friend Casey told me that a band called “The Creepshow” was playing at a local pub, and asked me if I wanted to know. I checked them out online and liked what I heard. While I was at the show, I bought this album.
How It Stacks Up: Before I got to the show I went to the local record store and bought an earlier album called “They All Fall Down” so I’ve got two of their records. Of the two, I’ve got to admit that “Death at My Door” is the weaker of the two so…second.
Ratings: 2 stars but almost 3
The Creepshow was my formal introduction to psychobilly, which is a sub-genre of music that is a mix of rockabilly, punk, with lyrics inspired by horror movies. That is the kind of musical mix I can get behind.
The Creepshow have been around for about 12 years, but they’ve had a lot of lineup changes over that time, which I expect has had some impact on their fame and fortune. A much greater impact is that psychobilly isn’t exactly the musical mix that screams commercial success.
Commercial success or not, I like their sound overall. There is a lot of rockabilly jump, which is the best part of rockabilly and the punk adds an element of dangerous that I enjoyed. There is some unison singing and degeneracy that compared favourably to the Dropkick Murphys, albeit neither as loud nor as degenerate. The band is tight and plays together well.
New (since 2012) lead singer Kenda “Twisted” Legaspi has a solid delivery, but she didn’t blow me away on the microphone. She has good energy, but there were songs where her vocal had a childish lisp. I think it is designed to be coquettish, but I like my horror lyrics with a harder edge.
The real stars were upright bassist Sean McNab and drummer Sandro Sanchioni, who laid down a steady diet of energetic rhythms that formed the backbone of the arrangement. Sanchioni in particular has a thunderous roll to his playing that reminded me favourably of Bill Ward, but with a bit more jump, jive n’ wail.
In terms of songwriting, the cover and band reputation had me expecting a lot of gore and shock value, but it was mostly fairly tame, with a bit of bloodletting and some hints of murder. Listening to Alice Cooper for 40 years (and being an occasional horror writer myself) has inured me to horror such that I don’t shock easy.
The best songs have that rockabilly jump coupled with a bitchin’ guitar lick, such as they deliver on “Sticks & Stones” and “A.O.T.B.H.” (or “anthem of the broken hearted”). Those songs have big roomy riffs that make you think of fifties biker movies and greasers with a comb in one pocket and a switchblade in the other.
I was also partial to songs that were a bit stripped down, like “Blood Blood Blood” (featuring one of Legaspi’s best vocal performances) and “My Soul To Keep.” The songwriting on “Death at My Door” is solid and these tracks showcase that this band is about more than image.
Unfortunately, the promise of the high points didn’t translate across the whole record for me. After five or six listens I was anticipating my favourites, rather than finding a new appreciation for the other songs I’d missed on the first time around. This is the wrong trend for long-term album enjoyment.
Despite this, I like what “Death at My Door” is aiming at, and I’ll be keeping this album and enjoying an occasional listen in the years to come.
Best tracks: Sticks & Stones, A.O.T.B.H., Blood Blood Blood, My Soul to Keep
The Concert – October 23, 2017 at Logan’s Pub, Victoria, BC
Having filled my head with as much Creepshow Youtube videos as I could for a couple of weeks, I headed to Logan’s Pub with my buddy Casey to check out the band in person. The rebellious young man in me had hopes for a high energy show. The cautious middle-aged man in me had brought along earplugs and was banking on the show being over by 11:30 because he had to work the next day.
I hadn’t been to Logan’s Pub in a while, even though it is only a 10 minute walk from my house but I always like the vibe when I do go there. It is a bit grubby and has a dangerous feel to it, but once you’re inside the folks are easygoing and mostly just want to be left alone. Unlike a lot of local concert venues the beers were cheap and we got a couple pints and settled into seats that afforded a good view of the stage.
The first of three – yes three - opening acts was a punk trio called Sado Mannequin, consisting of a male lead singer/guitarist, and women on the bass and drums.
Sado Mannequin had some bad luck early, when the guitarist broke a string after only one song and had to change it while the audience’s energy threatened to dissipate. Instead, they seized it back with an energetic delivery, great vocals and some solid punk rock ditties. The only thing they did wrong was never mentioning their name, or if they did I missed it. You gotta promote yourselves, kids!
Next up was a band of older dudes called “The Hex” although – like Sado Mannequin – they didn’t advertise. I had to look it up after on the interwebs.
These guys were more of a hardcore sound, and I was glad I’d brought the earplugs, which I quickly put to good use. I didn’t like the sound of this band much, and it didn’t help that their interactions between songs were mostly mumbles and self-referential comments that felt like inside jokes that the audience wasn’t in on. The crowd, which was a high-energy bunch, lost a lot of the excitement they’d garnered during Sado Mannequin and I started to get a little nervous that the show was going to fizzle before it started.
The last opener was the Helletones, which sounded like a cross between the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Motorhead. The combination is better than you’d expect. Looking out at the now mostly empty dance floor, the lead singer complained no one was there. But when Casey called out “we’re still here – now play some rock and roll!” they seemed appropriately inspired, and proceeded to do just that. Casey’s been to a lot of shows and knows when you need to lend rock and roll a helping hand.
The Helletones were a lot of fun, solid musicians and got the room rocking again. By the time they were done it must have been close to midnight, and my early hopes for a good night’s sleep were as dead as my promise to only have two pints.
The Helletones were a very loud band, and while they blasted away I played charades with Creepshow lead singer Kenda “Twisted” Legaspi, who was working the merch table. I would’ve waited but the merch table had been conspicuously unstaffed most of the night and I was pretty keen to have some merch. Through pointing, smiling and making strange shapes with my fingers, I successfully communicated to Kenda the vital information of “I’ll take this CD and the t-shirt with the same picture in a medium.” It was loud and I think both Kenda and I deserve some kind of prize for getting it straight.
The Creepshow hit the stage with good energy, although it took two or three songs for the sound to get up to par. Every band had done a sound check along the way, and a lot of equipment had swapped on and off the stage over the preceding three hours. It was a sound guy’s nightmare.
The Creepshow has had more than a few lineup changes over the years, but they weren’t afraid to delve into old favourites and new songs with equal enthusiasm. Kenda was up to the challenge, and while the venue was unkind to hearing her over the band, she knew how to command attention with well-timed fist pumps and snarls.
The band played tight, and a lot of folks in the audience were clearly devoted to them, which helped. The biggest problem was how late it was by the time they came on; even the mostly twenty-something crowd was flagging a bit under the weight of all that time and liquor.
Despite this, they were one of the better audiences I’ve seen at a live show in some time. With the exception of a few quick pics or video captures, cell phones were mostly left in pockets and purses, and the folks let themselves be in the moment. On some songs they slam-danced, which in psychobilly parlance is called “wrecking” but looked like a good old fashioned slam-dance to me.
On the more melodic songs, couples broke into swing dancing, joyfully spinning their partners, trying out their best moves and generally doing their best to avoid the people around them that a few songs earlier they’d been deliberately bumping and shoving. I’m pretty sure it was the only time I’ve seen slam dancing and swing dancing at the same event. It made me wish it happened more often.
The crowd was very stylish, and I found myself appreciating the aesthetic of the psychobilly movement. Pinup girl dresses and fishnets mixed effortlessly with leather jackets and mohawks, and everyone seemed to have taken a lot of time to dress up as cool and outrageously as possible.
I wore a pair of skin tight pants covered in zippers that made me feel like I fit right in, and an Alice Cooper tour shirt that made me feel slightly dated. Fortunately, I also felt I was bringing some kind of forgotten lore down from the mountain. “Behold – here was the man who brought horror to rock and roll!”
The show didn’t wind down until just past 1:00 in the morning. It was right around that time it felt like Creepshow was hitting their stride, and I think if they could’ve gone another half an hour it would have gotten better and better. Still, it was a solid show, made better by one of the coolest audiences ever to grace a bar band’s dance floor.