I’ll run amok on you… do the devil’s dance
You happy face fucks will pee your pants
After revisiting some rather degenerate works recently and eating a few too many chocolates at Christmas, I thought it was important for us to return to a strict diet of moral rectitude and recommence our programme of improving our souls* and who better to lead us in this, our latest and most heartfelt prayer meeting than the Very Reverend Lux Interior. Todays readings are from The Cramps Fiends Of Dope Island, their thirteenth and last LP, from 2003. Hell, the first words on the LP are Lux shouting ‘Satan baby, Satan!‘ and that’s the moral highpoint of the whole affair, from there on in we jump into out 1959 Plymouth Supa -Deviant, the one with the pink zebra print upholstery and cruise on down to Hades, CA.
I came late to the Cramps party but by jingo I’ve enjoyed it. Fiends Of Dope Island is a big, loud, pill popping, brash, dragged-up, leopard-print, B-movie of an LP, it’s not their best, granted, but it is still 85.76% better than anything else I’ve listened to for a while and a whole 98.04% better than all the other crud out there, easy. From the LP title and cover picture (Poison Ivy brandishing Lux Interior’s severed head) on in, you know exactly what you’re going to get here, and just like other 1537 faves AC/DC and Ramones, that’s really no bad thing indeed.
Imagine feeding a group of four scarily dangerous and highly medicated asylum inmates on a heavy diet of the Addams Family, Link Wray, Betty Page, Gene Vincent and every film Roger Corman ever made, for 15 years, giving them some instruments and turning them loose – that’s basically where we are. There’s a party going on in Lux’s pants and your date is invited.
Fiends Of Dope Island contributes some real gems to the Cramps canon, one of my favourites** is ‘Dr Fucker M.D (Musical Deviant)’. hell, with that title you don’t even need to hear it, you can just lay back and imagine how great this track is! It swings with a loose-limbed voodoo rockabilly charm, all the way home. The good doctor even gives us his prescription for a damn good time,
Got their fangs in my vein
But medicine for acrobats
Alleviates the pain
Got two oversize sparkplugs
And a gover-mental warning
Take two weeks worth of drugs
And call me in the morning
I promise you I’m not just picking all the tracks with the most swearing in, but my fave track on the whole album is ‘Elvis Fucking Christ!’, possibly the best song title minted in the last 15 years, if not in everation. So damn good it is that I’ve adopted it as my go-to swear if I hurt myself, or if some mother really exhausts my patience. True story. There are touches of harmonica adding flavour to the usual delightfully crude rockabilly moves. As always all dignity is hurled out of the nearest window and the Cramps just really go for it on this one.
Well the devil gave us Elvis
Drugs, sex and rock’n’roll
Greenbacks, fuzz and feedback
Demon seed and banshee hole
Frogs fallin’ down from Heaven
Thunder under Hell
Trogglodynamite times seven
Cold titty witchin’ spell: yeah
There is loads of good stuff here, from the gonzo-nutso-braniac loonballisms of opener ‘Big Black Witchcraft Rock’, through to Lux’ keening velveteen vocals on their cover of ‘Taboo’, which is just full-on genius in my book. I have a soft spot for the anatomically well-informed murder tale ‘Fissure of Rolando’, which is dedicated to the B-movie actor John Agar, although I’m not sure why – does it replicate a killing in one of his films? or did Lux and Poison just have a soft spot for the star of Zontar, the Thing from Venus?
There are also a couple of lesser offerings too like ‘Color Me Black’ and ‘Hang Up’, but nothing pants and anyway one quick dip into the inspired lunatic shuffle of ‘Dopefiend Boogie’ and the memories are all washed away. The band play it tight, Harry Drumdini and Chopper Franklin make a good, loose rhythm section^ and, as damn always, Poison Ivy brings the licks – she’s such a great, underrated player too, never getting the kudos for holding it all down. Why? I think it’s because the boys who hand out the kudos get too distracted by all the fishnets and tiger-print gusset on display and stop listening, which is a shame.
13 tracks on their 13th and last LP, it’s enough to make you superstitious, but Fiends Of Dope Island is no bad place to finish either. There’s nothing here to persuade a floating voter, either you have a taste for this type of gloriously childishly amusing, revved-up deprav-o-rama, or you don’t, this LP will not change your mind either way. For me, this is far too much sweary-titled sweaty fun to pass over.
*say the last bit aloud. Tee hee-hee.
**mostly because of the cursing.
^although, arguably they’re too good to bring that sloppy, chaotic quality that the very best Cramps tracks have.