Reasons #314, #313, #312 and #311 Why The ’80’s Didn’t Suck: See Below
Let’s be honest. As fantastic as Songs The Lord Taught Us and Psychedelic Jungle are, they are essentially the same album. Glorious, puerile psychobilly played by the bastard sons and daughter of Link Wray. In a graveyard. These are the not so humble beginnings of one of the best, most unique garage bands on the planet, and also the most under appreciated of all the CBGB’s “first wave” groups. They contain some timeless raunch ‘n’ roll, like TV Set (“I use your eyeballs for dials on my TV set!”), Garbageman (calling out the poseurs with the opening line “You ain’t no punk, you punk!”), and my personal favorite, Goo Goo Muck. Their choices for covers were not only inspired but in my opinion often beat the originals by a mile: Fever, Green Door, The Crusher, Surfin’ Bird (hard to beat the original here, or the Ramones version for that matter, but the Cramps come close!) and Rockin’ Bones, are all terrific examples of how to make someone’s song your own. I didn’t come to know The Cramps via these two LP’s, though. I was introduced, like so many North Americans I reckon, by the 1984 compilation of singles and rare material Bad Music For Bad People. I have to stop here for a second and just marvel at this amazing cover. I mean, have you ever seen a more eye catching, alluring (and lurid) album cover? It looked fantastic on my tattered and beat up jean jacket back in ’85, let me tell ya! And since this was my introduction some of these so-called rarities have become my favorite Cramps songs. New Kind Of Kick, I Can’t Hardly Stand It (with Lux Interior sounding like his lungs are about to burst), and especially the eerie, but funny, and totally kick-ass Human Fly; all are the equal to the best songs on the debut and sophomore efforts. Then we have the live effort Smell Of Female, recorded at New York’s Peppermint Lounge. Again the cover versions shine, especially so in this live environment. Their take on the Count 5’s Psychotic Reaction is gloriously skeevy, and opener Thee Most Exalted Potentate Of Love is a great way to kick off the proceedings. In between these songs the band gyrates, dry humps and dry heaves its way through a blistering 32 minutes of deranged rockabilly. This year marks the 35th anniversary of Songs The Lord Taught Us, and it is my hope that something happens to bring more attention to this band before December 31st, 2015 comes and goes.
They only released 8 proper albums from 1980-2003’s Fiends From Dope Island, and yes most of their prime stuff came from these first 2, Bad Music For Bad People and 1986’s A Date With Elvis, but they deserve better than the footnote we’ve afforded them. With singer/ head ghoul Lux Interior gone to that big old possessed pink Cadillac in the sky (R.I.P.) there will be no more Cramps albums released. So let’s all raise a Bloody Mary to these psychotic hillbillies, and ask ourselves, “What’s Behind The Mask?”