Sunday, March 11, 2018

Just One Song - Cramps

I'm Cramped
Songs the Lord Taught Us (1980)

I'd wager that the Cramps are the only band to ever do a concert in a mental hospital. It was early in their career and fortunately they weren't held over for observation and so they went on to be the Cramps and humanity is better for it. And their drummer's name was Nick Knox - the best drummer name of all time. Although Harry Drumdini certainly deserves a mention.

They're just two of the cast of characters who made up the Cramps over the three-plus decades they were in business until the death of frontman and exalted potentate, Lux Interior. In that time they put out about a dozen albums and EPs and all of the ones I've heard were quite keen. But you could distill this Cramps thing down to their first three releases - Gravest Hits (1979), Songs the Lord Taught Us (1981) and Psychedelic Jungle (1982). Or you could keep it simple stupid and go with the second one - their first full length album.

Songs the Lord Taught Us features the classic Cramps lineup of Lux, Poison Ivy Rorshach, Bryan Gregory and Knox and it is a thoroughly swell affair. Yea and forsooth, it is sweller than swell. If there's a dud in this bunch then please send me a telegram and set me straight.

Numbers like TV Set, Garbageman, and I Was a Teenage Werewolf achieve only mere greatness, while Rock on the Moon, Mystery Plane, and Mad Daddy kick things up a few more manic notches. There's Tear it Up, a cover of a Johnny Burnette song that takes the notion of manic to new heights. Refer to the live version of the song from the concert film Urgh! A Music War, where Lux all but has a fit and bursts into flames on stage. But only if you can't get enough of this sort of thing.

The standout track in all of this blessed mess, for me, is and always will be, I'm Cramped. Don't even start with me about minimalism and all that because when it comes to the rockin' and a rollin' it doesn't get any more fabulously minimal than this. There's a massive chord or two, a lilting, bouncy drumbeat and lyrics that consist of just the title of the song. And it is a majestic thing that might induce visions, speaking in tongues or extreme rump shaking. You've been warned.

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