It Feels Good to Feel Bad

(A version of this review appears on kevchino.com.)

Timber Timbre: Creep On Creepin’ On

In a musical landscape throbbing with the nostalgic pulse of synthesizer and other lovingly reappropriated pieces of pop—think Lady Gaga’s homage to Madonna on “Born This Way,” or Adele’s debt to 1960s soul—Canadian trio Timber Timbre stand out for their twisted take on the mainstream’s ardor for all things retro. On their new album Creep On Creepin’ On, the group playfully evokes the blithe strains of doo-wop and early rock n’ roll, but they do so with the gleeful morbidity of a slasher film, eager to watch the good vibes turn sour. It’s pop music taken to a ghoulish extreme, made expressly to get under your skin.

Creep On opens with the heavy backbeat and bluesy bass line of “Bad Ritual,” an eerie ode to romantic dysfunction. Singer Taylor Kirk sounds like he was recorded at the bottom of a well, his voice awash in a shuddering reverb reminiscent of early Elvis recordings. There are echoes of the King, too, in Kirk’s delivery, although his sneering baritone is weighted by a certain moroseness. It’s not surprising, considering his gloomy surroundings. The slinky groove at the top of “Bad Ritual” doesn’t stand alone for long, sinking quickly into a thick sonic murk marked by the deep thump of the bass drum and, occasionally, the creak of an opening door. There is a certain filmic sweep to these lush orchestrations, which swell and retreat throughout Creep On, as though the album were the score to a movie that follows Kirk as he wanders through an empty house, bumping up against things in the dark.

You can only stretch a shtick so far, and the members of Timber Timbre seem to know it. Creep On is a mere ten tracks long, three of which are instrumental. A penchant for goofy puns, demonstrated in the band’s name and the album’s title, reveals the group’s apparent wish to inject a little levity into their music, which features an almost comical use of stock horror movie sounds—a high-pitched whine like the howling wind, the heavy chiming of funeral bells. Kirk is a smart songwriter who describes heartbreak with chillingly sinister imagery, his love songs populated by monsters and touched by the phantasmagorical. But the band seems bored by his moody meditations, lapsing too often into spasms of orchestral madness which do little to illuminate Kirk’s words. In the end, Creep On Creepin’ On is like a dark, beautiful dream, rife with a sense of import but fading quickly upon waking.

 

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