Review: Drop Some Acid With Your Deadbeat Uncle On The Night Creeper
A couple of years ago, a wicked band from Cambridge, England with a decidedly groovy (and rather unusual) name dug under my skin via a pretty remarkable-sounding third album called Mind Control, which was sexy enough to rank relatively high on my 2013 year-end list.
In many ways the band sounded like a combination of two of Mother England’s greatest-ever musical groups — The Beatles and Black Sabbath — which felt pretty novel in and of itself. And people took notice; Mind Control garnered enough attention to score the band slots at several high-profile international festivals during 2013 and 2014 including Roadburn, Download, Hellfest, Roskilde, Maryland Deathfest, Montreaux Jazz Festival, Reading and Leeds, Soundwave, and many more, as well as a dream gig supporting Black Sabbath on sixteen dates of their reunion tour in Europe in late 2013.
Now Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats return with a new offering entitled The Night Creeper, and it’s high time we got deeply high and took a deep listen.
There should be scant reason to call this band’s sound “original” due to the overwhelming prevalence of its influences being worn on their aural sleeves at all times, but there is certainly something unique about the way UA&tDbs merge together these influences. Unsurprisingly, the vibe is decidedly retro; this material could easily pass for having been recorded/released back in the late ’60s or early ’70s, a claim I suspect the band would take great pride in as they seem hell-bent on paying homage to their favorite artists of yesteryear. However, of all the umpteen gazillion “retro” bands we’ve heard in the last fifteen years that appear to just want to create the same types of sounds as their heroes, UA&tDbs really do have a knack for making it their own.
It’s the vocal styling added to that Sabbathian (and at times Stooges-esque) flavor which sets this music apart. As with the most distinctive tracks on Mind Control, on The Night Creeper there’s a very Beatles-ish quality to the vocal melodies/harmonies/timbre, a description that’s been tough to say, mean, and respect with other groups in the recent past. But UA&tDbs do it quite right, complementing so many rockin’ moments with a series of supportive “ooohs” and “aaahs” that create a lovely bed for the dreamy lead vocals to soar above.
So what’s the catch? For all the delirium that UA&tDbs are able to lay down, there’s a less distinguishable autonomy in the band’s songwriting than on previous albums. Yes, a few of the tunes rise above the pack and offer vibrantly memorable riffs. But even so, these aren’t hooks you simply can’t get out of your head. On the whole, the music tends to blend together a bit and a handful of the songs seem to just sit in one place throughout.
It’s important to remind ourselves that with a band who deals so heavily in vibe, maybe the resonance of individual songs isn’t quite as crucial as the feelings conjured by the album as a whole. However, aside from a darker tone overall, not much seems to have grown from the dizzying highs of Mind Control. Many of the songs this time around are significantly less interesting, although there is a bit more expansiveness to the album’s brooding moments which can make for a nice dose of hypnotic groove.
I’m not trying to take away from the strength of this band and their sound — clearly UA&tDbs are on to something that connects well — but it’s tough to hear much evolution from the last album to this one, and at some point any band that leans so heavily on its influences must either step up and forge something more unique or get forever stuck in the past as a rip-off of their heroes and themselves. Here’s to hoping these lovable deadbeats can drop enough acid to conjure up a bit more dynamic diversity on the next outing.