UK glam-punkers Creeper have been on my radar for about two years, and now that they’ve released their second full-length and have a decent amount of material out in the world, I figured I’d ask and answer: is their whole discography worth listening to?
The first song I heard from the band was “Black Rain” from their debut album “Eternity, In Your Arms” (2017) which I still love to death to this day. I instantly fell for the anthemic emo chorus and fast-paced punk instrumentation of the verses.
Lead vocalist Will Gould’s voice is reminiscent of other emo singers in the way it wraps around the lyrics with great drama and passion, but it also has kind of a unique timbre that I find very appealing. The presence of Hannah Greenwood (keyboard/vocals) as a second vocalist handling moments here and there adds an extra touch that caught my ear right away as well. Their voices work together really well.
After hearing “Black Rain” I promptly checked out the whole album afterwards. I then dug into the EPs, and so began my great love for Creeper.
The band’s first official release was their self-titled EP (2014) which is very much punk and glam rock-influenced, with prominent emo elements as well.
Creeper delve into dark lyrical themes in a very romanticized and poetic way, a trend they continue for most of their future discography. This gives their music a hint of early 2000s emo nostalgia despite the fresh sound. The band is unafraid to ride elaborate metaphors and themes to express themselves artistically, which I personally appreciate.
The sublime combination of the poetic songwriting and Gould’s voice reminded me a lot of My Chemical Romance when I first heard this EP, particularly the chorus and bridge of “Gloom” when Gould stretches into his higher register.
Highlights of this release include the haunting ballad “Novena” and the catchy punk anthem “We Had a Pact”. My personal favourite is the fiery “Into the Black” due mostly to its killer chorus and amazing bridge/outro.
“This is the end, I regret, because the ties that bind us there bend but don’t break!” I mean, come on, this is just absolute fire. I also love the way he sings this line.
Then, we have “The Callous Heart” (2015) which is another five-song EP. While I personally don’t find it as good as its predecessor, the slightly more subdued version of punk they present here is still very enjoyable. There are still loud moments (“Honeymoon Suite”, “Allergies”), but there’s more ambitious sonic exploration, such as on “Henley’s Ghost” where the band provides an interesting piano ballad. While it’s not my thing, I commend Creeper’s exploratory artistic spirit.
My personal favourite is “Lie Awake” which I find to be the prime example of Creeper’s continuously improving songwriting. Even back then, they showed a knack for catchy emo one-liners, and while there’s less of the somewhat convoluted metaphors that begin to appear on their later albums, you can see the beginnings on this song and EP.
The band released their third EP “The Stranger” in early 2016, and this is, in my opinion, where they really start to come into their own both lyrically and sonically. Creeper really begin to lean into the storytelling side of their art that we know quite well today after the release of their two full-lengths. “The Secret Society” was clearly intended as an overture with its long instrumental intro, which prepares for the fiery tracks afterwards (“Valentine” and “Black Mass”).
The EP also spawned the minor hit “Misery” which was taken up again on “Eternity” in 2017 due to its success. With its slow guitar and emotional vocal performance from Gould, it’s the perfect successor to the frantic, bass-driven “Black Mass”, demonstrating that “The Stranger” is where Creeper began to understand the pacing and narrative structure of an album. I love that they took their time to figure this out before pushing and rushing through a full-length project. I think it made “Eternity” that much better.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Astral Projection” which is the track after which I named this entire blog. To me, this is Creeper at their best: punk-ish drums and guitar, dramatic lyrics, emotional vocals, and a perfect blend of high and low-energy moments. I love the entire track more than I can put into adequate words. It’s one of my favourite songs of all time and definitely my favourite Creeper song (so far, at least).
In 2017, the band put our their very first album “Eternity, In Your Arms” which received lots of well-deserved critical praise. All of that narrative skill Creeper had began to harness on “The Stranger” ended up here, on this excellent concept album with a fully-fledged external storyline. Just really brilliant work.
We also hear Greenwood prominently singing for the first time on a Creeper release. She gets her very own track where Gould is relegated to backing vocals (“Crickets”) and also shares a great duo with him to close out the album (“I Choose To Live”).
The glam influences the band has always had are kicked up a significant notch on several tracks (“Down Below”, “Hiding With Boys”) but I love that they didn’t ditch their punk roots altogether (“Poison Pens”, “Suzanne”, “Room 309”). Additionally, the greater incorporation of piano throughout the album, particularly on the tracks where Greenwood is heavily featured on vocals, adds a unique element to their sound.
“Eternity” was the perfect culminating example of everything Creeper developed on the EPs. It almost feels as though they used those prior releases as practice for the album. My personal favourites are definitely “Poison Pens” and “Room 309”.
In terms of criticism, I’d say that the band definitely underused the amazing duality they can create with both Gould and Greenwood on vocals. I think there are moments where Greenwood could have been inserted, if only briefly, like she is in the chorus of “Black Rain” – maybe that’s just because I want to hear more of her, though.
Finally, we have their latest release “Sex, Death & The Infinite Void” (2020) – with a title like that, you can bet I was excited. I was also doubly happy when I heard that this was going to be yet another concept album with an original overarching storyline.
Creeper also said that they were going to do some more sonic exploration on this album, touching on their glam rock influences and other genres while trying to make a wholly “American” record, something that definitely had me intrigued. Up to this point, every creative risk Creeper had taken had pretty much paid off in my eyes, so I expected anything they tried on “Sex, Death” to sound pretty cool.
And, well… it didn’t.
I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t supremely disappointed by this album. To me, it feels extremely flat compared to their other work. There’s a lot less energy and several aspects of what makes me love Creeper just kind of vanished.
I thought this would be the common consensus, and yet the fandom and critics generally seem to like this album, so I’m definitely in the minority when I say that I had little desire to even put it on again just to write this post.
“Born Cold” took a while to grow on me and so did “Cyanide” (and even still, I don’t love it). Despite other iffy singles that I struggled to like, I still held out hope for the album.
Yet there ended up being too much about it that irked me t the point that I disliked it.
For one, while I understand the purpose of the spoken interludes, they cut up the album really unpleasantly. They’re dramatic, which is fine and typical of Creeper, but to the point of being corny, which hasn’t (in my opinion) been typical of them thus far.
On “Eternity” the band didn’t need this sort of thing to tie their storyline together because the songs were strong enough to do that. I can think of several concept albums where the songs simultaneously strongly stood alone and tied into the storyline. Unfortunately, neither of these things are the case for this album. I still struggle to understand the creative decision of the interludes, though. Some work better than others, but why not just… make the songs better so there’s no need for these?
Furthermore, maybe it’s because I love the high-energy, punk-y Creeper songs and am not a fan of the more classic rock, glam, and folk elements they brought in this time around, but I found so many songs surprisingly boring (“Paradise”, “Poisoned Heart”, “Four Years Ago”). Others I just disliked right away (“Annabelle”, “Be My End”). A combination of weird vocal performance choices from Gould, cheesy rhyming, excessive repetition, and unappealing guitar riffs make these two really iffy for me (particularly “Annabelle”), and believe me, I’ve tried to like them.
I do think this album has some good moments, but it seems as though with every track I enjoy, there’s something that comes in to ruin it.
Take “Thorns of Love” – the chorus is awesome (despite the fact that to me, doo-wop will rarely be anything but corny). However, in my opinion, Gould is not a very good crooner. Don’t get me wrong, I love his voice and I think he’s super versatile, but not everything he tries works for me. Hey, you can’t please everyone all the time.
I do like “Napalm Girls” as well because it’s one of the only punk-influenced songs on the record, but the overdramatic pronunciation of “violence” on the chorus makes me cringe. I enjoy “Black Moon” in full, though (especially the outro). If more of the record sounded like this, I think I definitely would have liked it more.
And, of course, I have to mention the incredible closer “All My Friends” – it’s so elegant. If I recall, it was written about when guitarist Ian Miles fell extremely ill and Gould went to visit him in the hospital. It’s super emotional and Gould sounds absolutely breathtaking on this cut. Trust me, it’s really worth a listen:
On a separate note, I was glad to hear that Greenwood got a lot more time to shine on this record compared to the last one. That was one of my critiques of “Eternity” – it’s just too bad that Creeper seemingly sacrificed so much of what worked so well on their last record in favour of greater sonic exporation on this one.
I hate being this negative, and maybe I’m being a bit harsh and nitpicking, but that’s honestly how I feel about this most recent Creeper album.
Additional general thoughts
While I’ve critiqued Creeper’s most recent work quite heavily and you might not believe me when I say this, I respect the fuck out of “Sex, Death” and the band themselves. This is what Gould and the others wanted to create – they’ve said so themselves:
“There’s going to be some people who want us to play fast songs forever and I get that. But I’m hoping this allows us to make all different types of music. Whatever we do next can be even bigger, more embellished and over-the-top. I’m hoping they’ll follow us down the rabbit hole.“Will Gould, in an interview with Clash Magazine
While I’m definitely one of those people who prefer Creeper’s “fast songs” so to speak, I’ll always love and respect the band for refusing to settle and be just one thing. Their old work is still there for me to listen to, so all the power to them for exploring different sounds and experimenting with what they like.
Is Creeper’s entire discography woth a listen?
Absolutely. As much as I dislike “Sex, Death” it’s definitely worth a listen, because I think that many people will love it. As for the rest of the work, think this post has spoken pretty clearly for itself. Check. It. Out. All of it.
I recommend starting from the beginning, at the 2014 self-titled EP and working your way up to “Sex, Death” chronologically. Don’t skip over a single Creeper release, because you could definitely miss out on some absolute gems!
What do you think about Creeper? Let me know in the comments!