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The Creation - Creation Theory album review

A history of ‘the great lost pioneering psych PopArt act’, that’s stronger in the early chapters

Cover art for The Creation - Creation Theory album

It’s hard to trace a link between Alan McGee and Boney M, what with one having made shedloads of money mentoring Primal Scream, Oasis, JAMC, Libertines et al, and the other being a charming German-Caribbean pop act who bossed the 70s, but The Creation provide it. The 60s-formed cult band gave their name to both the former’s record label and band (Biff Bang Pow), while a cover of The Creation’s hit Painter Man was bizarrely a Top 10 hit for Boney M in 1979. The Creation’s flame, or ashes, has been fanned into legend. Some see them as hugely influential, the great lost pioneering psychedelic Pop-Art act of their time, while others wonder why the bluesy knockings of a bog-standard beat combo are held in such reverence.

This five-disc book set gathers an anthology of their often-interrupted works, from their sharp early singles through their first album – recorded in 1987 but unreleased till 2004 – to the 1995 album funded by uber-fan McGee’s Creation label. There are also solo tracks from guitarist Eddie Phillips (famed for playing with a violin bow before Jimmy Page), and the bonus DVD collects live/TV footage from their undeniably electric 60s heyday and the 90s reunion. It will thrill converts, but for newcomers the whole nine yards may be too much of a moderately good thing.

Beginning as the Hertfordshire-based The Mark Four, The Creation’s Shel Talmy productions are a fiery blast of what used to be R&B, offering stabs at everything from Rock Around The Clock to Cool Jerk, from Like A Rolling Stone to Hey Joe. Their own Sylvette and Making Time produce more sparks, while Painter Man is a genuinely intriguing oddity. Frontman Kenny Pickett, enamored of Peter Blake, Alan Aldridge and the like, would indeed spray-paint canvases onstage (which a roadie would then set alight). The song Biff Bang Pow, too, was coloured by Lichtenstein-ish exclamations.

Despite Ronnie Wood joining briefly, they vanished awhile, short on sales, and lived in the land of mythology: the swinging Who/Kinks that never made it but influenced Paul Weller. Yet the ’87 would-be comeback album Psychedelic Rose portrays them as plodding rockers, the pile-up of guitars a blatant influence on Oasis and even Ride. Still McGee wouldn’t let them expire, and the ’96 album Power Surge is more of the same, but creakier; Slade on sleeping pills. They should be glorified for their initial in-the-moment blaze of glory, not the later well meant exhumations.

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.