For the Records is a series of articles by special guest writer Mike McCubbins on his favorite albums of the 2010s. Click here to read the entire series.
The Teens have been a good decade for arthouse horror. Films like It Follows, Hereditary, Suspiria, and my most recent favorite The Lighthouse are bringing back genre thrills with vivid imagery and smart psychological underpinnings. As is often the case, the zeitgeist finds itself across art forms. If a particular aesthetic is happening in films, you can probably find it somewhere in music and vice versa. If on its release in 2011 Timber Timber’s album Creep On Creepin’ On felt a bit like a throwback sound, it now feels like a harbinger of what was to come.
There’s an element of camp inherent to the horror vibes on Creep. The instrumentals are often just on the “spooky” side of horror. Taylor Kirk’s groaned baritone vocals alongside stalking piano beats on many of the tracks conjure Boris Pickett’s “Monster Mash” as much as they conjure the measured low chill of Bill Callahan. If its haunted house vibes open a creaky door for Kirk to borrow the imagery of horror films, they also perform the equal and opposite tasks that horror trappings and even heavy metal trappings often do, which is to draw a frame around horror and depravity, to give us cartoon versions of danger. On Creep, horror tropes provide the scare quotes that allow Kirk to unpack his real inner creep as he pines from “beyond the birches” for a lost lover.
Creep is oozing with horror imagery and energy—levitating chairs, poltergeists, ectoplasm, incantations, crosses, and even a zombie. All this chilling imagery is put to describing a possession: Kirk’s unhealthy obsession with his ex. His voice looms over the album like the mask from John Carpenter’s Halloween, a creepy coolness that makes the lyrical knife in his hand all the more unsettling. But behind the mask, Kirk recognizes the toxicity, he refers to his “chauvinism” and he wants release from the curse. His songs are alternately about fighting the urge and giving himself over to it. “Or do I try one more time?/ No, I’ll not keep on/I’ll just Creep on Creepin’ on.”
The instrumental performances across the album rejuvenate the corpse of romance with zombie-like tunnel vision: spooky brass borrowed from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, looming Nosferatu organs, supernatural Suspiria synths, and Hitchcockian violins, and around every corner those chilly stalking piano beats. Creep’s three instrumental tracks wouldn’t seem out of place in a modern arthouse horror flick. The first of three titled “Obelisk” draws Lovecraft to mind—some cursed character losing his mind at the altar of an ancient phallus.
Creep’s mix of folk mythology, walking bass lines, juke joint vibes, and uncanny scares also hearken to the style of David Lynch. Its stark cover art, an eerie white pyramid adorned with a double-cross in a foggy Bergmanesque landscape completes the arthouse occultism package. As a beautiful dark work of art that comes both after and before its time, Creep On Creepin On is that thing beyond both: Timeless. | Mike McCubbins