Psychonauts do their best on their debut release Songs For Creatures, and while there are definitely hints at greatness, as a whole the album fails. It's an album that will keep you guessing - which is real and which is a sample - it may even have you scratching your head in wonder "I know I've heard that riff somewhere!" For an album that's taken this long to come out, I had hoped it would be somehow a little more current sounding - but to me it seems dated, not always in the best of ways.
Originally part of the Mo' Wax label, Psychonauts were previously known for releasing Time Machine in 1997, a compilation which compiled a mix of 49 tunes by Mo' Wax artists into a short half hour mix. They followed this up with the single Hot Blood in 1999. Hot Blood is included here on Songs For Creatures. Maybe this album took a long time in coming due to contract problems. Or maybe Psychonauts decided to take their time. Either way, I think this album would've made more sense in the heat of the downbeat '90s.
That's not to say there aren't highlights I keep coming back to - or that Psychonauts don't have their moments . The cd opener Circles is a wonderful stew of cinematically inspired wonder - combining an exploitation soundtrack styled bassline with lyrics from Windmills of Your Mind (the theme song from the original Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen). This intro song works wonders, and Circles is one of my favorite tracks on the disc.
Hips For Scotland features the Babybird styled vocals of James Yorkston, and it is the best when it it strums along like early Pink Floyd psych/folk rock.
Hot Blood plunges in like the theme to a modern slice and dice cop show with its monster bass and Miles Davis horn solos.
Fear is Real with Siobhan Fahey (of Bananarama and Shakespear's Sister) also bounces along but in an upbeat dub style. However, this doesn't work quite as well as Hot Blood. Siobhan Fahey is barely in this track for some reason, it's basically instrumental.
Dream Chaser mellows things down a bit, but would work better if it didn't have a cheesey guitar solo.
World Keeps Turning has guest vocals by Jason Rowe and it sounds like an 80's throwback to groups like Midnight Oil, and actually works well.