With a debut album mired in one-dimensional themes, Creature Feature's entree into the music biz amounts to them shooting themselves in the foot. They've stopped painfully short of the heights they could’ve achieved with The Greatest Show Unearthed, a collection of lighthearted, death-and-dismemberment-themed tunes heavy on the sampling and light on the guitar.
It’s clear that Creature Feature’s two members have creativity spilling out their costume-bedecked asses – what’s less clear is why they chose to go a route that portrays them as caricatures rather than flesh and blood entertainers, sequestering themselves in a myopically self-indulgent corner of the New Cabaret movement that leaves one with the impression that they’re a one trick pony.
It’s listenable, but it’s very much niche music. Whereas others used the carnival-horror theme as a jumping-off point for their own style (see Zombie, Rob, Babies, Stolen), Creature Feature have done themselves a disservice by appropriating that theme alone as their entire style… with little added to make it their own.
In doing so, they've trapped themselves in an intentionally hokey, Edward Gorey-inspired universe where their ability to expand is limited and their sound quickly becomes boring. The lack of personal infusion leaves The Greatest Show on Earth feeling stiltedly innocent and unhuman; it has a cookie-cutter, prescribed creepiness that’s too cartoonish to serve as something the listener can connect with on any kind of emotional level.
They do show promise on the surf-inspired “Corpse in my Bed,” which demonstrates that they are, in fact, eminently capable of producing more than a Danny Elfman-style soundtrack (see the title track for something that smacks of The Nightmare Before Christmas), and it would be a sin to imply that they aren’t adept musicians in their own right.
The keys and pipe organ do pump out some wicked tunes- especially on “Six Foot Deep,” despite the lyrics still leaving something to be desired (Planning out my grim demise/ someday we all shall die is nothing if not cliché, even when sung tongue-in-cheek)- and the employment of unconventional sounds is a welcome respite from the usual synth effects heard in digitally-supplemented music. The concept of the album on the whole, though, detracts from these accomplishments, burying them under thick layers of stage makeup and trite personas.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to host the kind of haunted house where you “scare” people by having them put their hand into a jar of peeled grapes and telling them they’re eyeballs, here’s your background music.