The Rock n Roll Horror Punk road show rolled into Memphis in 1980 for the first official studio LP for the Marvellous Cramps. Released on Illegal/IRS in May 1980 and not a bass in sight; Songs The Lord Taught Us was recorded in that great Rock n Roll Mecca of the 1950's, the studio belonging to Sam Phillips, and like the Gravest Hits EP that preceded it, was produced by the brilliant Alex Chilton. As you would imagine, The Cramps' debut LP is in a similar mould to that of The Cramps' debut EP from the previous year. There are 13 Tracks in all on this album, but unlike that debut EP, wonderfully it contains a lot more of The Cramps' own penned material.
The albums begins with the sharp edged TV Set, from the outset with this album you do notice a minor difference from The Gravest Hits EP, in that there is a slight shift towards Punk in a number of these songs, but it is only slight, for instance with TV Set there is still those Garage Psyche and Rockabilly elements at its heart, and of course with Lux Interior on vocals, it can only be The Cramps.
Speaking of truly being The Cramps, despite not being written by The Cramps; track two entitled Rock On The Moon is just one of those songs that I would have loved to have heard the band perform live. Even in the sterile environment of the studio, this song just sounds so invigorating and exciting; once again you can hear that fusion of Punk with that vintage Rock n Roll vibe, quality stuff. The same can be said for Twist & Shout, this really is a cracking album.
This uncanny revival of Rockabilly with an underground edge continues with the absolutely tremendous I Was A Teenage Werewolf, a song which could only be sung by one individual on the face of the planet; an essential listen, its builds and builds to a howling climax, quite brilliant in all fairness. As this is The Cramps, there is also a tale of vampires with the angry and chaotic Sunglasses After Dark, coming through the layers of fuzz to become my favourite Cramps song at this present moment in time.
More Fifties B-Movie paraphernalia flies through the air with Mystery Plane, a song about a UFO which fits into this marvellous album perfectly. What am I missing? Oh yeah Zombies, so no surprise that there is a song entitled Zombie Dance, one for the whole family to join in with I feel. Some noticeable covers are also included with this release; these include a cover of the 1965 Garage master class from The Sonics, Strychnine, and an unusual version of Fever to close the album off perfectly.
At the heart of this album is an uncompromising rhythm, combined with sweet rockabilly guitar, layers of glorious fuzz and an exceptional performance from the front man, all entwined together with some style by the Producer. All bases on this release are covered with none of the parts showing any failings or weakness. This really is a truly fine debut album from a band who knew how to translate their live shows onto vinyl, brilliant stuff.