Casey Scott’s Creep City is hands down the best album nobody heard in the 90s. The singer/songwriter/poet/artist and her backing band, the Creeps, cranked out a masterpiece blend of rock, spoken word, and itchy, twitchy angst. It’s tempting to call the album raw – it has a rough vibe, as if recorded on the fly in quick, angry bursts – but the band is airtight, working out some challenging rhythms and inventive sounds, their expert craftsmanship betraying the garage atmosphere.
It makes sense, then, that the album’s most haunting track opens with a preamble where Scott dismisses its simplicities. “7th of November” is a gut wrencher, a break-up song overflowing with self-loathing, and right from the start. As if apologizing for writing a three-chord ballad, Scott accompanies her gentle guitar intro with a warning:
If this song was a book, it’d be fifteen pages long, have a fake gold binding, big, bold, Easy Reader typeface. If this song was a bowl of soup, it’d be Campbell’s vegetable alphabet, all lukewarm and orange with half the letters missing.
The entirety of Creep City is loaded with notions like this, unwilling to acknowledge its own brilliance because that would mean admitting some sort of self worth, a virtue Scott’s songs fight to deny throughout the collection. “November” focuses tightly on this pessimism, turning “it’s not you, it’s me” into a stinging mantra.
It’s a break-up tune, but Scott’s lyrics go beyond the simplicities of faded love. Her narrator is a woman who won’t let anyone close, although it’s up to the listener to decide whether her preference for isolation is honest or just a lie she’s told herself to excuse a fear of intimacy. Right from the start, she reveals she’s sung this song before:
So you’d like to smother me
Just like the other
He thought that he was doing me good
As the verses progress, she never reveals just how much “smothering” was truly there, but later lyrics about her ex being “a smart man,” “a nice man,” and “a bright man” suggest a naïveté when compared with Scott’s loner. The bit about “I can see / you haven’t the capacity / to ever really be near me” proves they’re not meant to be and never will, even if he can’t see it. The song’s bluntest lines point out the disconnect:
There’s no reason to assume
The times I let you in my room
Meant as much to me as they did to you
That’s brutal – and again, we wonder if the narrator was indeed just looking for a quick fling, or if that’s just the impression she’s chosen to give. The reason it’s so difficult to translate is because Scott isn’t being confident or proud with her decision. This isn’t Davy Jones boasting “I Wanna Be Free.” This is a lonely woman who knows how much this break-up is hurting her ex, and even though it’s needed, she hates herself for it.
Just listen how she spits the word “nice” repeatedly when suggesting her ex go find “a nice girl,” who have “nothing better to do than worry about you.” She knows she’s being the mean girl, a role she’s playing to hyperbole. Perhaps she hopes he’ll not struggle to stay (suggested by his cries of “well, that’s what you think”) if she beats him down. Is that a mocking tone I hear when she quotes his “but you said… but I thought…” mumbles?
The song builds to its final reveal, that the title itself is a cruel punchline, Scott telling her ex not to expect anything to improve. In fact, expect the opposite:
Me, I’m made of ice, dear
It’ll just get colder from here
So don’t try to lay your head on my cold shoulder
It’s only the 7th of November.
The cold shoulder will grow colder, the ice heart shows no signs of thaw, not with winter approaching.
Creep City failed to find an audience, went quickly out of print, and eventually got buried and forgotten among 1993’s alternative rock avalanche. As far as I can tell (Scott’s online presence is limited, making research difficult), Scott’s solo career ended as quickly as it began. She spent the following decades as part of various other musical and artistic projects but remained mostly out of the national spotlight until 2011, when a brief string of videos appeared on YouTube, suggesting a return to solo work. For fans of Creep City (however few of us there are), that’s a return that can’t come quickly enough.