Remember that humorous night scene in Shaun of The Dead where the titular character and his best friend Ed spin records and reminisce about electro Hip-hop classics from their youth? Well Creep Show’s debut record Mr.Dynamite – a new project which teams up John Grant with electro ensemble Wrangler – feels like the possible musical exploration the duo could have ventured into if they weren’t interrupted by Peter Serafinowicz’s moody party spoiler.
This is because Mr. Dynamite is geekily inspired by the time when electro first mixed with funk and hip-hop, notably Grandmaster Flash’s ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’ and >Man Parrish’s ‘Hip Hop (Don’t Stop)’, with plenty of record-scratching, wonky synths, fat basslines, drum machines and cow-bell beats. It also sounds like mates DJ jamming overnight for an undetermined period and nostalgically drooling over many elements of music from the mid-80’s era including post-punk and industrial. Making a mixtape for their own buddying pleasure than any universal statement.
It’s self-indulgence which is at its highest on ‘Lime Ricky’ and ‘Fall’ can be boring after a while due to those tracks feeling directionless, repetitive and with lack of a hookable chorus. In fact ‘K-Mart Johnny’ is so self indulgent to the point of esotericism, it includes a conversation about a diseased toy dinosaur that has that “you had to be there” feel.
Such is the fascinating, erratic and boisterous aura around John Grant, the album is at its strongest when his presence is felt, even if lyrics are not always easy to comprehend. On ‘Modern Parenting’ – one of two tracks to feature some unexpected gospelizing from ex-Culture Club backing singers Mary Pearce, Maria Q and Zee Asher – he speaks confusingly yet excitedly about “Los Angeles and Atlantic City having a baby” as gloopy funk that sounds like Stevie Wonder’s ‘Skeletons’ jumps gleefully behind him. The lines “Did you ever stop to think what you gonna do? When your doggy jumps the fence and sets his sights on you” paired with the mention of “hollywood” suggests topical revenge.
On the inventive ‘Endangered Species’ Grant is typically brave and vocal, singing his trademark sinister humour: “I wake up and feel nothing but dread. / Something needs cutting off of you, for example your head or all of society” whilst whispering, voicing guttural and making the sound of a seagull.
This is not say that every track that John Grant isn’t on is dull. The title track opener ‘Mr. Dynamite’ (which despite not being on it, springs to mind Grant’s ‘Pale Green Ghosts’ in its ticking time signature) contains a ghostly synth belonging to a 1970’s horror soundtrack and ‘Tokyo Metro’‘s croaky listing of the Japanese capital’s subway stations and soothing lounge chip-tune is interesting due to its similarity to the style of Japan’s Denki Groove.
Mr. Dynamite closes with ‘Safe and Sound’, a soothing circa eight minute electronica in which John Grant’s commentary about the cosmos from “see how the daylight gives way to the dusk” to “look closer as the twilight bows to the night” and “billions of stars across oceans of time joined with the moon to shine their silver light“, perfectly compliment the spacey nocturnal atmosphere. It would have be quite extraordinary if the whole album matched that kind of dual discovery of music and nature with John Grant at the helm throughout the record.
Mr. Dynamite is out now on Bella Union.