The latest release from Australian based singer/songwriter Rhett May, Creatures of the Night, is a thirteen song collection solidifying his standing as one of the indie scene’s best musical artists. It’s the next bracing step in a thrilling musical journey spanning forty plus years, two continents, and brushes with iconic artists. May brings many of his formative influences to bear on the album’s songwriting but, despite his age, the tracks on Creatures of the Night bristle with modernity and an adult point of view full of vigor and imagination more commonly associated with much younger artists. The production snaps with the top flight fidelity we associate with major label acts and there’s a sharp balance achieved between the instruments that makes the thirteen songs sound like an unified, coherent listening experience. Creatures of the Night is an entertaining and highly intelligent reminder of what a quality songwriter and musician can accomplish.
The opener is such an important number from any musician or band. “Somebody’s Watching You” brings newcomers into the burning heart of May’s creative with its combination of rugged rock and roll guitars, scintillating lead work, and surprising amount of melodic value. May isn’t just a superb songwriter and musician – the song’s lyrical content is quite good and May’s observational powers shine through. The title song, “Creatures of the Night”, is one of the vivid experiments on the album and wholly successful. May’s arrangement for the song has a surprising amount of delicacy while still ably managing to conjure reams of atmosphere. “Latex Lady” is one of the stellar tracks that make Creatures of the Night really fly. The same quasi orchestrated approach May takes on the album’s most successful rock tracks hits a peak with this number and the adult subject matter of the songwriting never hits a prurient note. “Sandy Sweet As Candy” is a hard-rocking number with gutsy and tough-minded guitar work – the lead guitar playing is rather fiery.
“Space Between Breaths” is another meditative, moody track tailored to a similar length as the other tracks. May’s focus throughout the release is one of the great strengths of the album and few tracks better embody that strength than the title song and this track. It takes a substantial amount of talent to bring these disparate elements together in a track with a definite shape and thrust. “Elixir of the Gods” is the lengthiest song on the album and shows off May’s won’t for challenging listeners’ preconceptions. Some of his eastern musical influences come through here and the exotic feel adds much to the song, but what makes it work in the end is how May combines those twists with solid fundamentals. “Lexxi Mccoy” and “Bella My Baby” are two more solid shots of pure rock and roll that are entertaining, but there are equal parts of intelligence and artistry driving these tracks. May surprise us a final time with the album’s closer. “When We Make Love” is a stab in the direction of classy jazz and doesn’t sound out of place at all with the album’s numerous rock performances. Creatures of the Night will appeal to a wide swath of fans and those introduced to its charms will bring him countless new fans.
The exotic and wholly improbable journey Rhett May has made since his birth in the far-flung locale of Calcutta, India is the stuff that makes great movies. The influence of western music made its way to the far-flung east by the mid-’60s and Rhett May, in response, formed his first band at the tender age of fifteen. The Wooly Bullys soon morphed into The Flint Stones and attracted national attention as India’s most popular musical act of the era. Their hit song “Be Mine (Happy by My Side)” was released by the HMV/EMI label and May and his young bandmates parlayed that success into interest from iconic Beatles guitarist George Harrison and concert appearances in the UK. May emigrated from India in 1969 and ended up in Australia where he formed another band that went through a number of name changes before settling on the name Lucifer. Lucifer experienced significant success in the region and frequently opened for major touring acts like Queen and Ray Charles. Changing fashions knocked May’s musical career out of the box and, by the late seventies, May would find himself exiled from popular music for three decades. Four years after his return with the 2013 EP Insatiable, Rhett May’s latest full-length album Creatures of the Night proves that passion never dies.
The album kicks off in a memorable way with the track “Somebody’s Watching You”. May’s talent for building tracks, following time-tested rock music dynamics, is obvious early on and makes this track a real punchy opener. There’s a brash boisterousness about this that separates Rhett May from his peers and his vocals are rough-hewn, in some ways, but energetic and intensely melodic. “Back Seat of My Chevy” has a bit of a different tenor and an obvious more personal slant while the album’s title track provides listeners with May’s first stunning stylistic shift in the collection. It’s a dark, somewhat foreboding number that finds May conjuring a tremendous atmosphere without ever risking self-indulgence. “Latex Lady”, one of the album’s highlighted cuts, is a character study in essence, but it also finds May returning to familiar rock and roll ground and the mix of instruments is sure to garner a lot of attention.
“Kiss Your Mama with That Mouth” is one of the most creative cuts on Creatures of the Night. There’s an impressive sensitivity in the song that the title belies, but there’s an equal amount of attitude fueling the performance. The album’s longest track, “Elixir of the Gods”, recalls May’s upbringing in India, but the exotic textures he incorporates are never laid on too thick and there’s enough of a suggestion to make this stand out even more than the other high-quality cuts surrounding this one. “Sing for Me” has some of the same personal air we’ve heard on earlier tracks, but this never strikes one as a purely confessional number. Instead, May’s songwriting serves himself and the audience alike thanks to his skills for making the personal universal. Creatures of the Night is a fantastic release and will win May countless new adherents.