The back cover of Our Music Is Red with Purple Flashes: The Story of the Creation, Sean Egan’s definitive 2004 biography of the British group, calls the Creation “the greatest band you never heard of.” That’s probably not precisely the case these days: Most people at least know the Creation, if not by name, then by the sound of their debut single, “Making Time,” a whirling, Who-influenced anthem that famously soundtracked the opening montage of Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. Eddie Phillip’s dive-bomb guitar, moaning and lurching over a tightly flailing beat, must have sounded out of this world even within the rapidly shifting musical landscape of 1966 British pop.
It still sounds wild today. Phillips’ famous technique of rubbing a violin bow across the strings of his overdriven guitar resulted in an exhilarating, textural drone that would simultaneously rumble and squeal. The trick’s since been appropriated by everyone from Jimmy Page to Sigur Rós, but those old Creation records are where it’s best deployed.
Which is why it’s a bit surprising that it’s taken so long for the Creation’s lone album, 1967’s We Are Paintermen, to have been given a proper reissue. (In the past dozen years or so, pirated copies have made their way to record-store shelves, but their sound quality has been as dubious as their provenance.) Initially only released in Germany and Denmark—not even in the band’s UK homeland—Paintermen has always been a bit of a hodgepodge, collecting the group’s fantastic early singles with some lame covers of songs like “Hey Joe” and “Like a Rolling Stone” (the latter of which doesn’t even have the correct chord progression).
But Numero Group’s new reissue of the album, released April 20 on gaudy pink vinyl, is a welcome follow-up to Action Painting, the comprehensive two-CD anthology Numero released last year. (An abbreviated 20-track version of that collection also made its way to vinyl.) Despite the filler, We Are Paintermen is a fantastic introduction to the band, neglecting only two essential Creation tracks (“How Does It Feel to Feel” and “Life Is Just Beginning”) and including most of their landmarks: “Making Time” and its excellent B-side “Try and Stop Me” are here, as is the just-as-incredible follow-up single, “Painterman” backed with “Biff, Bang, Pow.” Reputedly cut by producer Shel Talmy from the original master tapes—although, crucially, the word “analog” does not appear on the hype sticker, suggesting a digital intermediary—the songs appear in punchy, animated mono, as they were first heard in 1966 and 1967. (And they are in mono, despite it saying "stereo" on the LP cover. It’s actually a little difficult to determine if the original German/Danish LP was released in mono or stereo—it was probably a mix of both—but rest assured the majority of Paintermen’s tunes sound better in mono anyway.)
The Creation’s story is a convoluted one, with departing and returning band members, stray tracks, latter-day reunions, and a confusing discography. With Action Painting and now this superbly presented replica of We Are Paintermen, Numero Group is setting straight the historical record of this fantastic band. Now everyone can say they’ve heard of them.