The Damn Choir’s collection of songs on Creatures of Habit stem from frontman Gordon Robertson’s childhood in fundamentalist homeschooling. Tracks are packed with sins, praying, preachers profit, bones and graves. Things aren’t dour and dismal, quite the opposite; Robertson’s songs question and yearn while the music behind him stays constantly (almost to a fault) upbeat, marching and strumming to the light.
The opening “Creatures” sets the tone with its acoustic forefront and mid-90’s full sound, produced/mixed/engineered by Byrce Goggin the band sonically swells. Bands like Live, Soul Asylum, The Lemonheads, Counting Crows and The Gin Blossoms all come to mind via Robertson’s vocals and the Choirs’ sunshine instrumentation. The album’s first single “Radiators” has a cascading word flow that references Carl Sandburg but other efforts may better capture the group’s purpose.
“Morning Glory” goes with a big chorus while “East Bay” starts with acoustic strumming and builds to a climax -simple yet effective. “Devil’s Frown” gets holy before “Under The Gun” waltzes around with multiple guitars and cello’s before a rescuing of the hard/sad times to come. Robertson lyrically is sketching out a semi connected thread through these songs that doesn’t always catch on the verbal hook. The nameless “you,” assumingly female or at least the yin to the singers yang, seems to inhabit a lot of places spiritually and physically while being urged to travel from them often. There are a lot of falling stars and the promise catching them, a metaphor that shows up often but doesn’t lead to many places. Rather than telling a story the lyrics on Creatures of Habit can begin to feel repetitive.
In a more modern and positive twist the group has a distinct Frightened Rabbit influence in structure and presentation which can clearly be found on the delicately depressed “Built For Two” and eye casting “Butcher.” The album closing “Violet” is the most dramatic and important sounding track here, ending Creatures of Habit on a high note, even with some stagnation along the way the resolution leaves a warm overall feeling.