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.