Creatures, Clan of Xymox's 8th overall album (and first for Metropolis) opens with "Jasmine and Rose," arguably one of the best songs Ronny Moorings ever penned. Yes, it sounds like a long lost track by The Sisters of Mercy (and yes, Andrew Eldritch can suck my left one and fuck a duck while stewing in his impotent rage over my Goth music comparisons), but that's really to be expected if you've been paying attention up to this point.
It was "Jasmine and Rose" that prompted me to go to one of the local record stores in Potsdam, New York way back in 2000 and special order the disc. The place had recently installed a spiffy self-service system for special order CDs in the form of a massive computer kiosk. I walked over, typed in "Clan of Xymox" into the artist field and the results came back with a selection of every release by the Wu-Tang Clan. With the failure of new technology, the person behind the counter put in an order for the proper disc and I got my CD within a week.
So, what happened between 1985 and 1999 with the group? Well, when they started they were a trio: the aforementioned Ronny Moorings along with Anke Wolbert and Pieter Nooten. Fourteen years later, Moorings was the only remaining original member. The band had also split from 4AD after their second album, going through four different labels before getting signed with Metropolis for Creatures. They remain on the label to this day. Oh, yes – and between 1989 and 1994 the group just went by the name Xymox. I think that if I ever get the rest of the group's discography, everything is getting filed under C, much as I'd love to expand section X of my music collection. It's easier that way.
Speaking of name confusion, there is actually a misprint on the liners of my copy of this CD. On each edge of the inlay card, it reads as follows:
MET 128 CALN OF XYMOX – CREATURES
I hope somebody at the label got fired for that one. I also wonder if it ever got corrected. I mean, somebody else should have noticed this in the past fifteen years, right?
So, what does this one sound like? Well, it sounds like a Clan of Xymox album. Basically, if you've heard one, you've more or less heard them all. I don't say this to be insulting, but it's the truth: the crossover appeal for this group is, at best, limited. We are living in the dark, absinthe-drenched, clove-scented batcaves of the eternal 1980s.
Subjectively, I find myself enjoying Creatures more than the self-titled debut. The sounds and song writing, while still derivative, just seems stronger overall. It's still best taken as an over mood piece, but the high points are coming more often. Like Clan of Xymox started strong with "A Day," Creatures also tears up the boot-stomped dance floor with "Jasmine and Rose." After a couple of weaker songs (but not much can stand up to that opener), "Undermined" starts playing, slowly burning it's way through six minutes of wailing angst vocals and searing razor blade guitars. I am being strapped to the rack and stretched and I fucking love the misery I am enduring!
Bring on the heavily reverbed piano for "Consolation" and it's slow-dance time. A bit of humming and a steady 8/8 drumbeat and I feel that it's time to light a scented candle and lay in bed with my lover, weeping about how our relationship is well and truly doomed to fail in the most miserable and tragic way possible.
Can you tell yet that I wasn't particularly happy in my 20s? Truth be told, I'm not particularly happy in my 30s either. Nor was I particularly happy as a teenager, but at that point I'd yet to discover an appropriate soundtrack to fit my moods.
In some ways, Creatures was released at a good time for Clan of Xymox. For a time in the early 1990s, Nirvana and a million plaid-clad imitators had effectively destroyed everything about the music of the 1980s, alternative and otherwise. Much like punk had killed prog rock in the late 1970s, the high theatre and pretentiousness of goth music couldn't withstand the raw and earthy assault of grunge in the early 1990s.
Even so, goth bands started crawling back out of the shadows in the mid to late 1990s. They were never hugely successful – at least not in the United States – but there was certainly an influence at work. I remember heated (and ultimately stupid) arguments over whether or not Marilyn Manson was a goth musician. I still say no, despite much of his shtick being stolen from Christian Death. If black eyeliner makes one a goth musician, then self-abuse onstage makes one Iggy Pop as well. Marilyn Manson is no Iggy Pop.
Legitimately though, there was London After Midnight, Switchblade Symphony, Rosetta Stone, and so on...and then, Clan of Xymox, surviving the 1980s to continue recording and releasing albums throughout the 1990s. In fact, they continued to release albums through the first decade of the new millennium. There is an indication that the body is showing signs of decay though: the most recent Clan of Xymox album, 2012's Kindred Spirits is a collection of covers. Such a move usually gets the attention of the vultures and obituary writers begin checking to see that the ink in their typewriter ribbons hasn't dried.