- Jammi York Photography
CREEPOID moved from Philly to Savannah on July 4, 2014. Between heavy touring and making the move back to their hometown a few months ago, they spent their time in the Lowcountry working with Peter Mavrogeorgis at Savannah's own Dollhouse Studios to make one of the best records of 2015 so far.
Released June 23 on Collect Records, Cemetery High Rise Slum’s hyped arrival has been met with widespread praise—personally, it hasn’t left my turntable since I snagged a copy from Graveface. The band’s making their way back through SAV on tour, celebrating with an album release party at Hang Fire. Until then, let’s sit down and have a listen, shall we?
This was the first long-player I’ve heard from Dollhouse—Mavrogeorgis has certainly proven his and his studio’s abilities in the shorter form, producing excellent EPs for locals Hot Plate, Boy Harsher, and Whaleboat. Cemetery High Rise Slum goes above and beyond expectations: all muscle and care from start to finish.
There’s a certain kind of seductive haziness that Mavrogeorgis is an expert at capturing—before, it was best evidenced in the chilling textures of Boy Harsher’s Lesser Man EP. Here, he has managed to gently pull apart Creepoid’s trademark grime and fuzz to reveal beautifully pained guitar parts and brutally commanding bass. Sean Miller and Anna Troxell’s vocals are deftly handled, gliding like flim on the surface of the song. A melody is never buried in the mix and simultaneously never outgrows a song’s core—when vocals build, the song sprawls and thickens with them.
In comparison to 2014’s Creepoid and 2012’s Horse Heaven, Cemetery High Rise Slum seems to best capture the way the band contracts and expands, the push and pull of gentle and ferocious, light and dark—their ammo as a band.
Creepoid’s members are pros at stretching the gauze of shoegaze. It’s wispy and evocative in the intro to “Fingernails,” both pretty and jarring on “Worthless & Pure,” which chips angularly at otherwise dreamy guitars, allowing just the right amount of discomfort. It’s downright furious as songs like “Tell the Man” storm the castle with torches blazing.
The latter moves like twinkling lights peering at the end of a murky tunnel—sketchy and ambivalent, it’s an incredible demonstration of the band’s ability to build an unstoppable wall of sound.
“Tell the man I’m here, tell him my name,” Miller taunts, dripping in Lou Reed-style sardonicism before plunging into bleary, immersive fury.
More than anything, Cemetery High Rise Slum marks Creepoid truly coming into its own sound. The influences may stand boldly—My Bloody Valentine, of course, certain shades of Sonic Youth, Nirvana (that big splash of an intro in “Dried Out” is the exact chill I get in the build in “All Apologies,” strikingly similar in the mood, heft, and tone)—but there’s something pronouncedly “now” about the way Creepoid does things. That blend of disillusionment and guitar tone screams 2015: this isn’t a nostalgic sound (maybe with the exception of “Shaking,” which feels like it should be played in some cobwebbed ballroom while couples in chiffon and silk slow dance gloomily [favorite track, hands down]).
Some reviews have mentioned a pronounced Southern Gothic feel in the record, attributed to the band’s time in Savannah. There’s definitely an air of—dare I say it—swampiness. Not in the Swamp Cabbage, blues-twangy way, not in the Black Tusk way, either: the band may be in Philly, but this is a Savannah summer record—it feels like those 111-degree heat index days, the sweat that never dries. It’s restless, it’s dissatisfied—with love (the cripplingly stunning “Shaking”), with suburbanism (see opener “American Smile”), with our ability as humans to screw everything up for ourselves and others. Don’t let the ‘90s influences lead you to believe that Cemetery High Rise Slum is the stuff of slackers: Creepoid is on the attack, foaming at the mouth and clawing through it all.