The fifth album from Alabama sister act Allison and Catherine Pierce has been a long time coming. While it has only been three years since the duo released their fourth – and most commercially successful – record, 2011’s You & I, follow-up Creation was initially set for release in 2013. That was then put back until earlier this year after the sisters felt that early cuts of songs were lacking in the emotion department.
Another delay later and The Pierces are now finally ready to release their latest effort. However, the multiple setbacks are understandable when considering that the band had unexpected success with You & I, which resulted in them making a major breakthrough in the UK. The album peaked at Number 4 in the UK Albums Chart and sold more than 100,000 copies – receiving gold certification in the process.
As a result, the pressure to make the most of the added exposure clearly weighed heavily on The Pierces as they headed into the studio to start recording again. Interestingly, much has been made of the pair’s use of the hallucinogen ayahuasca ahead of album number five, yet any psychedelic experiences they had while on the drug have not had an significant impact on Creation.
Instead, the record is very much an attempt to retain the qualities of the glossy pop that made an impact with You & I. The title track that kicks everything off is a perfect summation of the whole LP, with the sister’s trademark intertwining harmonies taking center stage over a haze of shimmering guitar riffs and a shuffling beat, as they sing: “You’re the creation/ you’re the reason/ you’re the rising sun and the colors in my mind.”
The track is a nice introduction and has one of the stronger choruses on the record, only bettered by the infectious Kings – the first song to be released from Creation – which is up there with the duo’s best work. It begins rather unassumingly at first with a busy beat and a wondering guitar riff, before Allison and Catherine launch into the uplifting and powerful chorus: “If we want to, we could do what kings do/ I could feel the earth move when you speak.”
However, after an impressive start is continued by the sweeping melancholia of I Can Feel, the album begins to expose some of The Pierces’ limitations. While tracks such as Believe In Me and Elements are perfectly serviceable, neither is likely to stick in the mind long after it comes to an end. In fact, far too much of the second half of Creation fails to make a lasting impression, with the soft pop-rock formula often resulting in songs that fade too easily into the background.
Take Must Be Something, for example, which coasts along aimlessly with no particular direction or intent – providing a stark contrast to the punchy efforts that marked out You & I throughout. Come Alive is better, with its jaunty guitar riff and rumbling beat giving the middle section some much need energy, while Honest Man relies heavily on its driving chorus to lift the passive, and all too familiar, verse.
It is certainly clear to see that the troubled beginnings of Creation has taken its toll on the finished product. The record feels safe and comfortable, with tracks like Comfortable In Love and closer Flesh And Bone suggesting the sisters have rested on their laurels. Yet just as it seems as though the early promise has been frittered away, the magnificent, foreboding Monsters delivers a timely reminder of what The Pierces can do when they are on song.
Ultimately, Creation does not add anything drastically different to The Pierces’ back catalogue. At its best, the pair’s fifth LP familiarises us once again with their pitch-perfect harmonies and tightly constructed, polished melodies. Although that is not necessarily a bad thing – and the formula does deliver some gems in Kings and Monsters – the lack of progression is disappointing from a band that appeared to be on the cusp of something great.