By: Jamie Jones
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Released on October 2, 2015 via Sargent House
If your band features only two members you’d think the smart thing to do would be to make your limitations work for you. That’s the route many duos go for; they treat their sound like a car built for racing with anything and everything that might slow them down stripped away and tossed aside. Canadian twosome Indian Handcrafts don’t seem to have any interest in that approach. The way they see it being short on numbers is no reason not to go big and shoot for the stars. They’re like a shaggy couple of buddy cops from some action flick dead set on making a difference, leaving a trail of destruction that looks like it was wrought by a small army in their wake.
Creeps picks up pretty much where their 2012 début Civil Disobedience for Losers left off. On that album they kept things silly, merrily yelling nonsense about Bruce Lee, zombies and StarCraft as if they were the most important things in the world, all atop wanton stoner riffery and grooves a-plenty. They’ve talked about that being their 70s record and this being their take on the 80s, but there’s little evidence of that in the first few tracks. In fact the White Zombie chug of ‘Brothers Underground’ makes it sound like they skipped straight to the 90s. During the rawkus Sabbathian riffing of ‘Down at the Docks’ and the sleezy Oliveri-era QOTSA-esque ‘It’s Late Queeny’ you’d be forgiven for thinking Creeps is conforming to the tried and tested second album template of being just like the début – only more so. There may be a bit more of assurance to the newly shred-happy guitar work, a little more confidence in the duelling sung/bellowed vocals, but for the most part it’s exactly as you’d expect. And that’s just dandy.
Then after 4 tracks they suddenly up the stakes with ‘Maelstrom’. From its aquatic, classic literature referencing lyrics (10,000 Leagues Under the Sea if you’re wondering) to its frantic drum rolls and burly-yet-awkward riffing, it clearly owes a heavy debt to Mastodon. As such it’s a much more technical and complex track than anything they’ve attempted before. It’s an audacious move for any band to try, let alone a two piece. And yet they somehow pull it off. They may streamline things with a more straight forward head-nodding riff for the verse, but they more than match the likes of Baroness, Intronaut or any of the other bands who’ve tried to step into the Atlanta crew’s shoes over the years. And what’s more it does so whist still retaining a fist-in-the-air anthemic quality that’s quickly becoming their calling card.
And things only get more audacious from there. ‘Snake Mountain’ finally fulfils those 80s promises in a blaze of NWOBHM shredding majesty, full of heroic fantasy lyrics and balls out thrash fury. ‘The Divider’ takes things further, throwing some corny 80s stadium rock into the mix. It sounds like Van Halen by way of Ocean Machine era Devin Townsend, with the kind of wide-screen appeal that if it were released 30 years ago would see it plastered all over classic rock radio stations today. It also boasts the kind of acoustic picking and ridiculously overblown guitar solo middle section that would make Slash raise an incredulous eyebrow. If that makes it sound like they’re playing for laughs then you needn’t worry – the boys don’t so much veer towards the realm of pastiche as slam the pedal to the floor and plough right through it, coming out the other side with grins so wide you could see them from space. It’s played with love, without a hint of mockery.
‘Degenerate Case’ brings things back to the band’s usual wheelhouse, bouncing in with a series of big dumb riffs and infectious chanting guest vocals, the breeziest and most straight forward track on the record. There’s one last stylistic shift left for the final track; unfortunately it’s the only one that isn’t welcome. ‘Rat Faced Snorter’ drags the pace down to doomy levels as it trudges on for over 7 minutes, by far the longest track on the album. What could have been a welcome comedown from the madness that preceded ends up being a damp squib of an ending as the song stubbornly refuses to go anywhere. It’s the only moment on the record that Indian Handrafts’ hyperactivity is brought under control – but that turns out to be an asset they can’t yet do without. This might be an avenue they’ll have more success with in the future but for now of all the different outfits they try on the doom robes is the one that suit them least.
And that’s what the second half of the record sounds like – a band playing dress up, having fun trying out various different styles just for the pure hell of it. But whatever hair and make-up they put on it’s still clearly Indian Handcrafts grinning back at you. Such restlessness might sound like an identity crisis for some, but in their attention deficit fuelled world it’s infectiously fun. They clearly love this stuff – you get the feeling that if the ever impressive Sargent House hadn’t picked them up (or if they’d never even managed to get a gig) they’d still be playing this stuff in a back room or garage somewhere. On Civil Disobedience for Losers they sounded like a band having a lot of fun, but maybe not taking this rock thing all that seriously. On Creeps they show they take it just seriously enough to be awesome at it. Then they take the stoner party van from the cover of their début and power slide it through a bunch of rock sub-genres with glee, one hand on the wheel, one flicking horns through the window.