Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Cramps – Smell of Female

I am still working on replacing my stolen Cramps vinyl with CD reissues and I have finally gotten this wonderful 1983 release again. This long-awaited follow-up to the terrific Psychedelic Jungle (the band could not record for years while tied up in a court battle with IRS and Miles Copeland) was highly anticipated and the only disappointment was that it was a mini-LP instead of a full length. Still, it is a super-strong record with great tunes and the CD has 3 bonus tracks.

With a cover that began the tradition of Ivy as sex-pot pin-up girl, this was recorded live at New York’s Peppermint Lounge and showed the band to be as strong as ever during their studio hiatus. The set opens with a gong and one of their best tunes, “Thee Most Exhalted Potentate of Love”, with Lux’s clever lyrics combining snatches of old songs while bragging about being the “hotentot (?) of twat” and his fantastic b-movie thievery: “mad – you call me mad? I who has the secret of eternal love?!” Ivy’s mid-eastern guitar lines intertwine and pulsate while Kid Congo Powers and Nick Knox hold down the fort. Amazing stuff!

You Got Good Taste” is not quite as successful, but it is still a solid rocker that lets Interior continue his lascivious leers, such as “you got good taste, you got good taste, you come here, sit on my…lap” and Ivy lets out a couple noisy fuzz solos. But back to sheer genius with “Call of the Wighat” – a hip-shakin’ backbeat, more patented Lux stream-of-unconsciousness brilliance and even strong dynamic work by the rhythm section.

Of course, the Cramps wouldn’t be the Cramps without b-movie references, and here they actually cover the theme song for Russ Meyer’s incredible and iconic “Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill!”. Unlike many movie themes, especially low budget flicks, this is actually quite well written and lends itself easily to its Crampsification. Meyers was enjoying a resurgence right about this time (due in part to people such as Eric Caden at Hollywood Book and Poster) and this was one of Russ’ best, so good timing all around.

Another swinging beat propels “I Ain’t Nuthin’ But a Gorehound”, the band’s ode to the likes of Hershell Gordon Lewis and early blood-soaked flicks that were also making the rounds of the revival houses in LA and where you were sure to see Lux & Ivy. The album closed with their psychotic take on the Count Five’s “Psychotic Reaction”, made even more twisted by Interior blowing madly (and slightly out of key) into a harmonica and Ivy’s fuzz mania.

Truly mind-bending is the addition of an insane live version of the drug-addled “Beautiful Gardens”, which sounds like Lux is going through an acid trip and taking you along, whether you want to go or not! This is my favorite style of the Cramps – the psychedelized, semi-garage rock’n’roll, which I love even more than their psychobilly creations. But, that said, they also include a wacked-out “She Said” that is crazier than their studio version and gives Hasil Adkins a run for his money.

The CD closes with the band’s selection for the superb “Return of the Living Dead” movie, “Surfin” Dead”. This tune surprised many fans with its strong production and first-time inclusion of a bass guitar! The song is fantastic – a perfect mix of rockabilly and garage (the “c’mon, c’mon” section is taken from an obscure 60’s garage tune) and more of Lux’s “stay sick” lyrics.

Another essential Cramps release – no rock’n’roller should be without their first 4 releases!