Rhett May – Creatures of the Night
Rhett May’s thirteen song album Creatures of the Night is a spectacular follow-up to his well-received 2015 release Fast Cars and Sitars and should solidify his standing as one of the strongest songwriters working today. May’s wide-ranging vision isn’t afraid to immerse itself in adult material, can waver between being serious and playful, and has a resonant voice that defies his years. This sounds like a performer who has been empowered by having another chance for his music to affect and entertain the masses and each of the songs on this new release embraces that opportunity. The arrangements are involving and inventive, the music never wallows in clichéd turns and predictable changes, and the songwriting is consistently tailored to just the right length and buttressed with top flight production values. Everything about Creatures of the Night smacks of a performer and songwriter who wants to make the best possible impression on listeners.
The impression begins with the first song. It’s clear May possesses both the skills and exuberance to make up for lost time and “Somebody’s Watching You” surges with all the vitality of someone debuting. The wiry, staccato guitar lines run through the song like kinetic waves of electricity and the drumming has enough snap to dramatically complement each passage. May’s singing possesses that same electric charge and he throws himself into the song with complete abandon. There’s a predominantly guitar approach taken over the course of Creatures of the Night’s thirteen songs, but May mixes it up with a number of different textures like we hear on the title song. Piano and powerful drumming provide a foundation for this darker-hued track and the guitar is much more restrained than it is on earlier songs, but it makes its presence in a particularly impassioned second half and May demonstrates he’s more than up to the challenge of matching its heightened emotional tenor.
The intensely rhythmic drumming beginning “Latex Lady” is the first example of the more adult-oriented, hardnosed material that makes the song more unusual than even some of the most inventive and imaginative material on Creatures of the Night. May, however, sings without a hint of pandering or lasciviousness that might mark lesser performers. There’s a bluesy, crashing crawl characterizing “Sandy Sweet as Candy” that sets it apart from the other songs since it never takes its boot heel off the listeners’ neck and May’s vocals wholeheartedly embrace the blues feel. The album’s longest track, “Elixir of the Gods”, is a much more experimental track than the other dozen songs and incorporates exotic eastern instrumentation without ever laying it on too thick. Despite the track’s length, however, the song never overstays its welcome and never feels that long. “Sing for Me” has a near perfect construction. It opens with piano, an immense vocal chorus buried in the mix, and focuses on nuance before transforming into another guitar propelled mini epic. The lyrics have a strongly personal air and May essays them with just the right amount of understatement. The album’s penultimate number, “Bella My Baby”, has a raucous old school rock and roll edge that the higher registers of May’s voice grip tightly onto and fill with zesty relish. Creatures of the Night will please high brow and low brow rock fans alike because it reeks of authenticity and artistry.
9 out of 10 stars