Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Cramps - Psychedelic Jungle

After Songs the Lord Taught Us came out, the band went through some upheavals, resulting in Bryan Gregory leaving the band and ex-Gun Club guitarist Kid Congo Powers joining. Gregory was missed by many – his stage persona was terrifyingly unique – but Congo was a great addition (and nice guy) and this record shows a move towards more 60’s sounds (though still embracing rockabilly) and is another classic.

There are quite a few covers on this record, presumably due to the time consumed by touring and changing members. Beginning with a cop from one of the Pebbles compilations, “Green Fuz” (from the band of the same name), which gives this a more 60’s garage sound right from the start. But, back to the 50’s from the mind-boggling “Goo Goo Muck”. This is pure Cramps – cool riffs, great, rockin’ beat and excellent lyrics (“I’m a night headhunter lookin’ for some head”). This is one of their best and the interaction between Ivy & Kid works perfectly.

The band had been playing “Rockin’ Bones” since early in their career and even have a previous recorded version, which I think is a little more intense and spooky. Of course, this is still great, but not quite as moody as the other take. Keeping the same feel in the original “Voodoo Idol”, Lux conjures images of voodoo doctors and ceremonies as live gigs. Brilliant! Another garage song is “Primitive” by the Groupies and, again, this is perfect for the group with its infectious guitar licks (taken from “Smokestack Lightning”) and cool words.

A new Lux/Ivy collaboration is “Caveman”, which is primitive and raw sounding as any of their and compares rock’n’rollers to Neanderthals. Following in this theme is the Novas’ tribute to the wrestler “The Crusher”, who sang lead in the original. When the Cramps would perform this, Interior would demonstrate this dance craze on some unsuspecting audience member – usually someone who deserved it!

Another early original and one of my top picks from this album is “Don’t Eat the Stuff off the Sidewalk” – what a title! The sounds on this are extraordinary! Ivy’s cool riffs backed by Congo’s wall of feedback and open drums create a truly psychedelic feel and it ends far too soon! Another simple but excellent lick is the backbone of “Can’t Find My Mind”, with more perfect Interior lyrics.

Similar in feel to “Voodoo Idol” is “Jungle Hop”, with its jungle sounds and rhythms. Again, the comparison between natives and the r’n’r audience is undeniable and that theme continues through “The Natives are Restless”. Obviously, this idea intertwines through this entire record, but each song is unique and great all on its own!

“Under the Wire” is a demented tale of a dirty phone caller (“what color panties are you wearing – and how long have you been wearing them?” and “I let my fingers do the walking, to find out to whom I am talking” are especially good couplets) which is hypnotically simple but powerful. Another fantastic, creeping, building riff leads off “Beautiful Gardens” in which Lux “lost touch with reality” and describes the visions he is having. This sounds like an acid trip gone bad!

But, as in the previous records, they close with the quieter cover, “Green Door”, telling of someone trying to gain entrance to a speakeasy. This is downright melodic and shows that the band could do a variety of styles even in their limited instrumental line-up.
These first few records are absolutely essential to anyone who cares about r'n'r. The CD issue of Psychedelic Jungle includes Gravest Hits and there are plenty of bonus tracks on the CD of Songs the Lord Taught Us. You must own these if you do not already!