Creep Show

Mr. Dynamite

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    7
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AllMusic Review by

John Grant and the men of Wrangler -- former Cabaret Voltaire frontman Stephen Mallinder, Tuung's Phillip Winter, and Ben "Benge" Edwards -- are all expert collaborators, so it's not surprising that their work as Creep Show is something special. Wrangler bring a sense of twisted fun to everything they touch, whether they're teaming with vocalists like La Roux and Serafina Steer on their own albums, or working more extensively with an artist like they did on Lone Taxidermist's full-length debut, Trifle. For his part, Grant's deep love of electronic and industrial music only began to surface in his own music on his solo debut, Pale Green Ghosts, which featured production by GusGus' Biggi Veira. So while it'd be easy to say Creep Show is a match made in heaven, at its best Mr. Dynamite is diabolically clever. Wrangler and Grant first worked together on a remix of his single "Voodoo Doll," and its pulsing electro-funk feels like the template for "Pink Squirrel" and the tweaked and freaky title track, which finds Grant and Mallinder trading shape-shifting vocals over skulking beats. Creep Show recorded the album at Edwards' Cornwall studio, using his arsenal of analog synths to make songs as wide-ranging as "Lime Ricky," a collision of breakbeats, vocoders, and big, squiggly synths, and "Tokyo Metro," a breezy interlude full of video game-bright bleeps and bloops. Grant sounds just as spontaneous as the rest of the band, delivering performances that are more vulnerable -- and more theatrical -- than his solo work. Originally a demo he recorded for another artist, the stunning album closer, "Safe and Sound," finds him letting down his guard more than ever before. Meanwhile, "Endangered Species" is a more unhinged cousin to Grant's sardonic anti-pop, with lyrics like "Something needs cutting off from you/Like for example, your head/Or all of society" reaffirming he's second to none when it comes to elegant putdowns. There's a pervasive menace on this song and Mr. Dynamite's other highlights, whether it's the domestic dangers of "Modern Parenting" or "K Mart Johnny," a stark and spooky tale of childhood revenge that's as unsettling as it is funny. Given its experimental origins, Mr. Dynamite is a little scattered, but Creep Show's sophisticated mischief is so entertaining that it's a pleasure to hear each unexpected turn they take.

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