on 12 June 2009
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.
The howl of a thrashed convict latched limb by limb to a team of untamed monsters tunes the guitars on this Cramps debut. No bass, just two of the undead chewing gum, the drummer wearing shades, staring you straight in the eyes, beckoning you to look away, whilst acid faced Bryan, couched in a scowl plies with the flaming love of Ivy in cascading poisonous melodies into a living corpse.
Charlie Feathers deranged banged up younger brother breathed this album into existence with a hiccabilly orgasm. Lux croons an ode to an organic TV, made of body parts with eyeballs for dials, then bellows a hymn to the Mystery Plane.
Christianity of the cross stepped aside as Satan's monsters whooped and clambered out of Pandora's box, then bopped in derision on the altar. Then off they drove in supercharged prime coated gang bangers hollering tales of UFO's. Snorting strychnine, in a homage to the graveyards of past masters, the ones who bestrode the USA dancehalls before the Beatles disinfestation.
Suddenly it all toned down fahh Feevahh, a homage to Elvis or Peggy Lee, either the air sizzled and burnt with sexual frission. After the lull, young people impolitely requested to do the beserker, to "tear this damm(ed) place up", had a final clmatic release as it all spurted into the ether.
At the masqued ball; Link Wray, Glen Glen, Elvis, Dick Dale, Sonics and the Ramones all came forward to take a bow. Alex Chilton in the orchestra pit conducted the melee. The night of the undead shook off their limbs to a carnal cranium excess.
The Cramps, counter cultural bouffanted ambassadors carneying the bystander to step through the American musical genealogical
carn(iv)al. Illustrated, tattooed and on parade, basking in lewd taunts were the only men and women who mattered. Cry Baby for adults. Lux, Ivy, Nick and Bryan launched planet bop, providing free rides for kids to climb aboard, a magical mystery world existing high and dry before MTV. Pied Pipers of the protozoa beat they danced the children to the promised land of their parental hidden excess. Pointing to all the hidden bachanals before suits and ties strangled the world. A world of Russ Meyer, Gil Elvegren, Vargas, Burlesque, Carnival, Untamed Monsters, Bettie Page, Lilli, St. Cyr, big customised sickles, lysergic shifts, the watusi, the twist, the hot potato, pounding beats and sheets of electric ac/dc tubes of hot glow.
It wasn't just music, Lux howled loud and clear, "Rockabilly could have changed the world",- Tuning into pre-transistors revealed the cultural head revolution was the 50's not the 60's. An aesthetic revolution never equalled, teenagers were invented and then love rubbed off. Cultural turning of the tables, no more square talk daddio, let's get hip to some honky tonk and rattle those pans.
Meanwhile outside the tent in the 80's, heavy metal, MOR and disco raged, the punk furnace became swamped with buckets of wet synth fops and howled out of town by mediocrity managers.
This album was a marker for all things wholesome in a land of white sliced dread.
on 3 November 2014
Produced with a suitably scuzzy feel by sleazy alternative rock icon Alex Chilton, the title of The Cramps' live-sounding 1980 debut is most certainly a bum steer. Featuring the magnificently monikered Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, the less than sacred, bass-less Songs The Lord Taught Us sees this pale-faced, big-haired group mashing the frenetic mid-20th century rockabilly of Charlie Feathers, and the reverb-heavy surf guitar of virtuosos Dick Dale and Link Wray, with lyrics and song titles inspired by trashy American B-Movies from that same era. Clangourous originals like the opener 'TV Set', snarling 'Garbageman', and the self-explanatory 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf', show that their then novel approach could work very well. They are complemented here by surprisingly faithful renditions of The Sonics' deranged garage-punk classic 'Strychnine', Johnny Burnette's rip-roaring 'Tear It Up', and the much-covered, finger-clicking jazz-y number 'Fever', on what is widely regarded as the theatrical foursome's best album.
This is a great reissue of a great album- a blend of gothic, the rockabilly and too much horror/SF. This album is a minimal classic along with The Fall's 'Slates'- that Storks fans should check out to see why 'Is This It?' is the most over-rated piece of kak...Ex-Big Star man Alex Chilton produces the 1st, scary line-up: Lux & Ivy, the coolest drummer Nick Knox & the late, sinister Bryan Gregory...'TV Set' is the primal opener- a drum beat and searing guitar- no bass required!. 'Rock on the Moon' is dumb surf rock'n'roll that leads to 'Garbageman'- which is just as sleazy as anything by The Stooges. Superior trash! You can see why this was such an influence on Spacemen 3, along with the Gun Club's 'Fire of Love'. 'I was a Teenage Werewolf' takes its title from a classic slice of b-movie US paranoia (see Peter Biskind's book 'Seeing is Believing')- for those who liked the scene in the 50's diner in 'Pulp Fiction' you should love this!. 'Sunglasses after Dark' is a wonderful slab of surf feedback that predicts the joy that was 'Psychocandy'. 'The Mad Daddy' is a monster mash- too much George Romero, too many late night viewings of 'Carnival of Souls', too many readings of 'I am Legend'. 'Mystery Plane' is closer to the sound of the next album 'Psychedlic Jungle' (just as good)- it reminds me of 'Goo Goo Muck'. 'Zombie Dance'is another minimal slice of gothabilly; while 'What's Behind the Mask' predicts tracks like 'Green Fuz' & 'What's Inside a Girl?'. 'Strychnine' is a classic rockabilly song- too much speed& James Dean is a zombie. 'I'm Cramped' is kind of a theme tune- there is also a demo version here. 'Tear it Up' is a great thrash- Elvis jamming with the Stooges in the ruins of Sun Studios. The album ends with a cover of Peggy Lee's 'Fever' that makes perfect sense and features a great organ solo by Chilton (Booker C!!!). This is a fine, fine album that makes more sense with the march of time and one that deserves a place in any discerning record collection.
on 30 October 2001
The Cramps ushered in the late 70's new wave with their own mix of what was right and what was wrong. In amongst the mayhem that was CBGB's, with Debbie Harry, the Ramones and Iggy Pop came a band that ploughed it's own field. Raw rock'n'roll. No pop and no style, The Cramps are another world, fuzz guitar, stripped down percussion by Nik Knox and Lux Interior the original Teenage Werewolf on vocals. This music is like no other, the growling underbelly of rock. Fuzzed up enough to influence and spark the career of many. Recorded under the ear of Alex Chilton (Big Star), it is the roots of John Spencer Blues Explosion, it echoes back to Link Wray and pushes into the future with the likes of the White Stripes. If you like your music stripped down, raw and not for public consumption (sick) then this is definatley bad music for bad people. Stay sick, Purple Knif
on 12 March 2010
You know that your in for a treat just look at the cover and then to read their names, Lux Interior and the lovely Poison Ivy sets this up as going to be a hoot. Raw psycho-rockabilly a little ruff around the edges and in the way it is recorded but that just adds to the fun. I will never forget Lux singing "I'm Cramped" whilst climbing up the P.A and swinging from the stage lights. He had a thing for mic stands as well he use to snap them up during songs. The drummer used to read the newspaper whilst playing, his ashtray was on the side drum. Like the fruit pastel challenge I bet you can't keep your foot from tapping and your head from nodding to these ear wiggling beats. They were one of the most entertaining bands I ever saw and this is one of the best albums ever made.
on 12 July 2008
I don't mean to take anything away from Lux Interior's band of weirdos but Alex Chilton (Yes, the frontman of Big Star fame) must take a good proportion of praise for this wonderful record.
Previous recording 'Off The Bone' hinted at the greatness with which this band could acheive but with Alex's help they found a sound that I find hard to describe. Like Gene Vincent covering 50's Rock 'n' Roll standards but with an underlying sense of dread and despair. There, thats the best I can do.
For the songs themselves I think opener 'T.V set' pretty much sets the scene: A great old riff with Lux Interior barking some of the greatest one-liners you are likely to hear this side of a Two Ronnies sketch.
This is an area I feel is much under appreciated in the vault of Lux's talents - his comic timing, with 'What's behind the mask?' being a particular highlight in that regard.
The Cramps had many other great records like 'A date with Elvis' but I feel that they never quite rediscoverd the sound they created with Alex Chilton - truly a one-off. Along with The Gun Club and The Fall, The Cramps hit on a sound which will never be beaten by any contempary artist however much money they throw at it.
on 8 May 2015
The fusion of rockabilly, horror and sheer brilliance hasn't been matched in the thirty five years since the release of this debut album.
Utterly vital music. Outside of Iggy Pop, the late great Lux Interior was the most deranged vocalist I have witnessed.
Beg, steal or borrow....
on 15 April 2015
Brilliant album as it's both funny and great rock & roll. Had known of The Cramps for years and wish I'd bought earlier as I missed out on some great songs but better late than never.
Now to explore more of their music.
on 4 January 2011
Essential for any Cramps Fans. Teenage Werewolf and Mystery Plane are great with some good alternate takes as well. I'm Cramped!