The Cramps
Fiends Of Dope Island (Vengeance)
~reviewed by Uncle Nemesis

I'm very envious of The Cramps. It must be so cool to be able to live your entire life like you're starring in your very own B-movie; to construct your own world of chrome and leather, high heels and tail fins. That's The Cramps' great achievement: they're trash icons, prophets from planet rock 'n' roll. We can't all live our lives like The Cramps, but once in a while they'll put out an album and invite us to their party.

I've lost count of the number of albums The Cramps have released to date, and I certainly can't remember how many different line-ups they've had over the years, so don't expect any erudite contextualising or scene-setting with this one. I'll simply predict that Fiends Of Dope Island will go down in Cramps-history as a bit of a classic. It's got more fire and energy than we have any right to expect after all this time, more wit, humour and gung-ho spirit than most bands can muster in an entire career. The Cramps fuel themselves up with all the enthusiasm and glee of a brand new band, and plunge into a set of classic Cramp-o-rama that's easily as good as anything they've ever done.

You know you're in for a rollercoaster ride when the very first song on the album is entitled 'Big Black Witchcraft Rock' - and yes, it most certainly lives up to its name, with Lux Interior hog callin' the lyrics over one of those magnificent rock 'n' roll bashabouts that The Cramps always do so well. Poison Ivy's guitar grinds and churns, unceremoniously rough 'n' ready on the big bad riff. It's a song which steps right up and dares you to suggest that The Cramps' bellies are any less full of fire than they used to be. And then there's the utterly wonderful 'Doctor Fucker', a song which I suspect exists purely to allow Lux Interior to have some fun with the rhythm of those two words.The whole thing is soaked, nay, marinated in so much reverb that 'Doctor' and 'Fucker' crash into each other like particles in an accelerator as Lux gets loose on the chorus. It's a mad and marvellous stomper with some great voodoo drums thrown in along the way. And the good Doctor's final piece of advice? 'Take two weeks' worth of drugs/And call me in the morning'. Don't try that at home, kids. Oh, all right, go on then.

'She's Got Balls' is a warped love song, a hymn of praise to 'Miss Mascara Monster' who's 'Thin as piss on a plate/And high as the sky above'. A very fine companion song to 'Big Balls' by AC/DC, if any DJ is brave enough to try it, I'd suggest. And then we meet the 'Mojo Man From Mars', inventor of a strangely addictive dance which will getcha any time of day: 'It's too early for the bars/And I done wrecked both the cars' sings Lux, helpless in the grip of the Mojo Man's compulsion and convulsions. The lyrics on this album are as gloriously funny and surreal as ever. Rather unfairly, you'll seldom see The Cramps given any credit as lyricists, but they've always had the uncanny ability to set up a weird, wired world in just a few words; they can take us to another place and have us dancing and laughing within a couple of verses and a crazed chorus. It's a rare skill, and there are plenty of instances of that skill at work here.

But if I was to name one song as my favourite, it would be 'Elvis Fuckin' Christ'. Now, there's something about that title that kind of clues you in to the fact that this isn't a nice little ballad, right? It's a dangerously insane romp, a grand proclamation of undiluted rock 'n' roll attitude, with Lux roaring and railing against the 'Big rock awards' on TV, which have apparently 'Crowned a brand new king'. And, of course, it should've been him, because he's 'Chicken pluckin', go-goo muckin', Elvis fuckin' Christ!' The entire song is an insane, assertive anthem, a steaming, fire-breathing theme song, a statement of intent, The Cramps unceremoniously planting their black flag right in the front yard of anyone who thinks Nickelback is as good as it gets. All this and a harmonica blasting away like a train. What what more could you want?

So, it's time to get a little attitude in your life. It's time to fire up the hot rod and get down to The Cramps' virtual drive-in. Neck those funny green pills, turn it up loud, and spend a while with the Fiends Of Dope Island. I'll guarantee the party will be a blast.

Oh, and a postscript. Just in case you were still in any doubt about The Cramps' warped, genius wit, I note with great delight that Lux Interior and Poison Ivy's songs are published by 'Hiss And Hearse Publishing'. Now tell me you don't love 'em!

The tunestack:

Big Black Witchcraft Rock
Papa Satan Sang Louie
Hang Up
Fissure Of Rolando
Doctor Fucker M.D.
Dopefiend Boogie
Elvis Fucking Christ
She's Got Balls
Oowee Baby
Mojo Man From Mars
Color Me Black
Wrong Way Ticket

The players:

Lux Interior: Vocals, harmonica, maracas
Poison Ivy: Guitar, theremin
Chopper Franklin: Bass, rhythm guitar
Harry Drumdini: Drums

The Cramps don't have an official website, but these fan sites contain the essential stuff:

Reviewed by Uncle Nemesis: