Album Reviews

Creep Show – Yawning Abyss

(Bella Union) UK release date: 16 June 2023

John Grant and Wrangler team up again for a sequel to Mr Dynamite, and it’s both one of the most compelling, and strangest, albums of this year

Creep Show - Yawning Abyss Creep Show‘s debut album, Mr Dynamite, was released back in 2018, and was an intense, unusual listen. The sound of John Grant teaming up with the analogue electro trio Wrangler (consisting of the Cabaret Voltaire founder member Stephen Mallinder, Tunng‘s Phil Winter and producer Benge) was an eerie, ominous, unsettling experience – a natural progression from Grant’s Grey Tickles, Black Pressure.

Five years later, the quartet are back together, and have created another album that’s one of the most compelling, and strangest albums you’re likely to hear all year. There’s less emphasis on electro experimentation this time around – on Mr Dynamite, Mallinder and Grant’s vocals were often pitch shifted beyond all recognition, but here they sound a bit more conventional. Well, kind of.

Opening track The Bellows is a bit of an outlier – there’s a touch of Kraftwerk to the modular synths, and the vocals, auto-tuned to sound like a computer, and it all sounds rather foreboding, with lyrical references to bombs dropping and rockets being launched. The reprise at the end of the album is, if anything, even more mysteriously sinister.

Thankfully, the rest of the album is a bit more up-tempo. Money Back is almost commercial singalong pop (albeit one with lyrics such as “appreciation, monetary, big in crypto-currency”) with an infectious chorus of “you want your money back? I don’t think so” sung with a mischievous glint by Grant. Yahtzee manages to sound both deliriously funky and utterly unhinged, with lines like “let’s play Yahtzee while the children watch their favourite porn” and all manner of squelchy synth sounds explode in the background, while Steak Diane is six minutes of smooth keyboard tones, with processed vocal snatches of “Steak Diane”.

In between all the weirdness, it’s the more conventional tracks that stand out, ironically. Bungalow is a majestic, swooping ballad that could easily have come from Grant’s classic Queen Of Denmark, with lines like “You can’t forget what you saw when you were just 16” – the fact that it’s one of the few songs on the record where the vocal isn’t subjected to pitch shifting makes it all the more effective. The title track is dark, funky and seductive (“Don’t be silly now, you know you’ve always wanted this”), while Wise sticks a toe in trance and minimalist funk for all of its five minutes.

Anyone old enough to be an original Cabaret Voltaire fan (and, as one of the most influential electronic groups of our age, there should be plenty of them) will find much to enjoy in Yawning Abyss, as Mallinder displays the same sort of invention and creativity that he did in his heyday. It’s the sort of album you’ll want to retreat into with a pair of good headphones as you’ll notice all manner of little audio tricks each time you listen.

Although Yawning Abyss is a tad more conventional than Mr Dynamite, it’d be fair to assume Creep Show will remain an acquired taste for some. But for those who have no qualms about stepping into their sometimes oppressive, sometimes sleazy-sounding world, you may not want to step back.

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Creep Show – Yawning Abyss
Creep Show – Mr Dynamite