Tuesday, May 14, 2024

CD Odyssey Disc 1736: The Cramps

A long day ends with…a Bruins win! We head back to Boston for game six against the much-hated (by me) Florida Panthers.

Now…on to the music. This next album has been in my car almost a week as I tried to catch up on work, life and everything in between.

Disc 1736 is…Look Mom No Head!

Artist: The Cramps

Year of Release: 1991

What’s up with the Cover?  A fun house full of booze hounds! Actually, it is just the one booze hound – its all done with mirrors.

Our cover girl still appears to have her head, but pounding down that bottle of hard liquor will sort that out soon enough. As the Cramps sing on “Blow Up Your Mind”:

“Ain't you a little too healthy, mm?
Drink some bad wine
Trap some bats in your belfry
and blow up your mind!”

How I Came To Know It: I came to the Cramps through a Canadian band that they inspired called “The Creepshow” and worked my way backward from there. This led me through a journey into the delightful musical genre of psychobilly. The wellspring of all things psychobilly is the Cramps, and swimming upstream, I naturally arrived there.

How It Stacks Up: I have five Cramps albums, and they are all awesome. It pains me to put “Look Mom, No Head!” in the lowly position of fifth, but they are all that good.

Rating: 4 stars

When you invent a style of music that inspires generations of musicians to follow, you’ve probably done something right, and the Cramps are an inspiration to all that live the unbridled life of rock and roll, and to do it without apology.

For those of you who don’t know what psychobilly is, it is a Frankenstein’s Monster of punk rock, rockabilly, mixed with a B-Horror film sensibility. Imagine Elvis Presley if he were a sex-crazed lunatic high on LSD. Sounds awesome? Then the Cramps are the music for you.

It all begins with lead singer Lux Interior, lasciviously eating up every inch of real estate a Cramps song can offer (which is a lot). Mr. Interior (definitely his real name) has a voice that sounds like he was born for the stage, but the stage wasn’t cool enough for him so he instead sold his soul to rock and roll.

The Cramps double down on sex, drugs and rock and roll in a way few bands can match. Songs like “Bend Over, I’ll Drive” and “I Wanna Get In Your Pants” are about exactly the things you think they’ll be about, and written with intent to push boundaries and barriers, and to have fun doing it.

The fun is an important part of the formula, because the Cramps seem to have a very good time, and the songs are edgy but very much tongue in cheek. They dare you to take offense and if you don’t you’re rewarded with membership in their club of strange. Everyone’s welcome as long as you accept that everyone is welcome.

Musically, these songs have that flat and frenetic delivery of traditional punk rock, but absent the anger. They are also incredibly tight as a band. Guitarist Poison Ivy (definitely her real name), bassist Slim Chance (ditto), and drummer Jim Sclavanos (likely a pseudonym) have a natural talent for sitting down at the front of the pocket with the perfect timing that rockabilly requires to deliver its driving energy. It isn’t the same lineup the Cramps started with in their glory days but it is still a solid set of musicians.

The songs have a theatrical flair to them that goes beyond the glamorous grotesqueries of Lux Interior, but underneath it all is a band with a willingness to experiment with various forms of rock and roll, secure in the knowledge that five albums and over a decade into their career their legacy was secure.

I loved this record, and despite almost a full week with it in the car I never tired of it. Even weaker tracks like “Alligator Stomp” and “Don’t Get Funny With Me” have a delightfully dark kitsch that makes them fun. Musically, “Look Mom No Head!” isn’t as raw and powerful as some of their earlier work, but it has just as much gusto, and I had just as good a time. Give them a chance and you might too.

Best tracks: Dames Booze Chains and Boots, Two Headed Sex Change, Blow Up Your Mind, Miniskirt Blues, I Wanna Get In Your Pants, Bend Over I’ll Drive

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