Creature Feature: The Greatest Show Unearthed


CD Review by Gregory S. Burkart

Any band that professes proud devotion to the ?Halloween 24-7-365? philosophy is worth looking into, and these devious purveyors of goofy Grand Guignol wear their weirdness like a big stovepipe hat made of eyeballs. And well they should. But this is a music review, so we'll ultimately have to examine the true rocking potential of the fiendish L.A. DIY duo known as Curtis and Erik, a.k.a. Creature Feature, with the long-awaited release of their first full-length.

Sure, they've got the imagery nailed ? after all, like myself, these guys are not just about music, but embrace all aspects of the dark arts, blurring the lines between audible and visual media, scoring short film projects and even starting their own film production branch. There's no doubting their creativity, spark and and dedication to the genre in all its forms... and they do it all without relying on the industry leverage (and inevitable meddling) of a major label. Not to mention Curtis sports truly glorious facial hair, which always scores high marks in my book. But once again, do they rock?

I'm quite happy to say hell yeah, boy. Mightily.

And what a relief to know that, because these days I tend to wince a bit every time a self-declared ?horror band? steps onto the scene, as about 60 percent of them are either ripping off The Misfits, The Cramps or Cannibal Corpse, and another, say 30 percent are emo wankers who wear Lucio Fulci t-shirts while whining about who-cares-what. That leaves a meager 10 percent of the pie for quality bands who manage to process their classic horror obsessions in unique, compelling or just plain fun ways. This duo definitely falls into the ?fun? part of that group.

Not that Greatest Show can be dismissed as merely a Halloween party album... although it would be a truly sweet one, don't get me wrong. The songs are technically smart, move with a relentless momentum and have a genuinely cinematic feel - not just in the instrumental style and multi-layered production, but also through a storytelling lyrical technique, which serves as a kind of running commentary on the imagined ghoulishness within each track: tales of zombie Armageddon (?Aim For The Head?), brutal kidnappings (?Bound And Gagged?), necro-romance (?Corpse In My Bed?), cannibal gourmands (?How To Serve Man?) and even a tribute to Edward Gorey's The Ghastlycrumb Tinies that is so spot-on that you'll never be able to read the book again without that tune popping into your head.

Sure, other bands have tackled these subjects, as well as Edgar Allan Poe, The Twilight Zone, and Ray Bradbury tales. A million times over, in fact. That's why it takes real talent to make those themes interesting again, and this is where Show shines.

Instrumentally, there's a strong foundation (a glow-in-the-dark skeleton, if you will) of solid, non-nonsense rock rhythms onto which Erik layers vintage sci-fi and horror elements - ranging from old-school organ, calliope and theremin-like samples to a Caligari's cabinet of sound effects - resulting in a bizarre techno-demonic fun house, in which vocals and guitar leads serve as a demented barker, guiding the listener through the unnatural attractions within. This is no more evident than the opening title track, and particularly the truly awesome closer, ?Such Horrible Things,? which has the feel of Jack O' Lantern juice injected straight into your brain.

If you remember fondly (as I do) the first full-length release from Mike Patton's Mr. Bungle, you may feel a touch of deja vu listing to the aforementioned cuts: the nightmare carnival vibe plays a huge part, of course, but Curtis's strong, slightly off-center tenor ? a youthful voice, but with a wizened edge beyond his years - recalls Patton's sonic mischief as well, with more than a touch of classic Oingo Boingo-era Danny Elfman. It's a natural fit for this kind of mood, with a slightly post-modern electro spin that makes it remarkably fresh, and worthy of repeat listening.

Classier than a horror novelty act, but with the same energy that made you dance to those songs when you were a kid... free of maudlin Gothic pretensions and bursting with tongue-in-cheek Saturday morning spook-show spirit... Creature Feature make feel-good music for us creepy kids, so look 'em up and check 'em out.