The concept of “genre fiction” or the “genre movie” is never one that’s stretched into the musical realm. Music is dealt with in terms of genres, but the idea of a band belonging to “genre music”, a set of recognisable, re-used tropes, as opposed to “everything else” is never truly discussed. It seems odd then that in listening to this, Timber Timbre’s fourth full-length, it’s exactly that idea that keeps cropping up in this reviewer’s head.
Perhaps it’s the association with films, and specifically horror films, that the idea of this connotation of “genre” has, but Creep On Creepin’ On (which, in title alone, could be a clichéd horror tagline in itself) can’t be removed from the images and style it conjures up throughout. Timber Timbre have always been purveyors of a kind of shambling, unsettling folk-blues, but their decision to trade this for a more polished, piano-led approach this time around only adds weight to that feeling of horror-film oddity. ‘Black Water’s tip-toe piano and sudden brass intrusions sounds like ‘60s crooner pop gone rotten, all whilst Taylor Kirk makes a line as seemingly innocent as “All I need is some sunshine” sound positively vampiric by backing it up with the story of searching for the “spirit that I crave”.
From there, ‘Do I Have Power’ goes the whole hog and seemingly constructs an entire horror plot out of instruments, as it takes Kirk’s warbling narrator’s vocals, throws in the virginal, beating heart of a double bass, adds the camp, gothic villain in the form of a harpsichord and eventually goes all out, building to a squealing, occasionally atonal saxophone death scene, complete with far-away screams (is that a woman or a guitar?). Then, ushered in by the string-filled ‘Lonesome Hunter’ (choice lyric: “I’ve done some truly awful things, and you must be terrified/Well you have every reason to be frightened, since you’ve being reading my mind”), the album takes a bizarre turn into instrumental (or should that be soundtracking?) territory, with a three track interlude that absolutely confirms the horror film stereotype that’s been forming throughout – ‘Obelisk’ in particular could be a cover of the music to Nosferatu.
It’s this absolute assertion of their creepy, occasionally clichéd brand of perturbatory pop that leads Timber Timbre to both succeed and fail with Creep On Creepin’ On. There’s no doubt that this is a group who know just how to manipulate their listener, at once beguiling and disturbing them. This is an accomplished display of just how to twist old musical shapes into alternative forms, in this case by taking the sheen of ‘60s and ‘70s Hollywood pop and tarnishing it wonderfully. But, just like the genre films it brings to mind, this album is held back by its own imprisonment in a set of immovable conventions. Where the North American folk sounds of their previous work allowed them to spread their wings into other areas, Timber Timbre are here confined by their own accomplishments in a single one – Creep On Creepin’ On is one of the oddest albums of the year so far; strange, talented, different, ultimately one-note but certainly worth a listen if only to satisfy your curiosity.