Top positive review
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Dark, Sinister and Brilliant
on 29 June 2009
After exciting audiences and critics alike after the release of their debut LP in 1980, The Cramps had a couple of changes to make in time for their second release in 1981. Firstly the band lost guitarist Bryan Gregory, and secondly the band left the East Coast and joined the California set in Los Angeles. In December 1980, the band recruited the services of guitarist Kid "Congo" Powers, or Brian Tristan as he was known to his parents, just in time for the recording of their second LP to take place in January 1981 at AGM Studios, California.
Released in May 1981, Psychedelic Jungle by The Cramps released on Illegal/IRS was The Cramps second studio release and for the first time was produced by the band themselves with quite surprising results. As a piece of work it is a lot more controlled than Gravest Hits and Songs The Lord Taught Us, overall creating a more rounded and sinister feel than heard previously. There is still no bass to be found, the album remains a mix of covers and originals, the vocals remain glorious and the fledgling dual guitar partnership of Ivy and Powers does not show any signs of faltering in its infancy, but there is most definitely an air of maturity creeping ever so slightly into The Cramps style here.
The album begins with a cover of a little garage gem known in collector circles; the original version of Greenfuz is a crackly primitive sounding marvel recorded in the middle of the night in a roadside café in Texas back in 67 by Randy Alvey. Chosen on Psychedelic Jungle as the opener, its use is quite the statement by The Cramps, there is not much difference between the two versions other than the fact it is properly recorded, once again it demonstrates one of my favourite things about The Cramps, their obvious love and passion for resurrecting those lost treasures from America's recent history and encouraging the listener to find out more.
The next song on this album is just fabulous, like Human Fly on Gravest Hits and Rock on The Moon on Songs The Lord Taught Us; Goo Goo Muck on Psychedelic Jungle is a song where all the elements of The Cramps come together to create something quite glorious, hats off to all involved seriously. Although this song is a cover, the whole vibe of the song is truly Cramps, especially Lux Interior's noise rampage at the end of the song. The Rockabilly vibe certainly continues with Rockin' Bones and Voodoo Idol, and you can hear where the term "Psychobilly" comes from when describing the sound of The Cramps especially with this album.
But that Psychobilly sound on this second studio album is a lot more dark and sinister than on any Cramps release earlier, no more so than on Don't Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk and Can't Find My Mind, track numbers 8 and 9 respectively, and on Track 12, Under The Wire. For me though the highlight of the whole album comes at the end with The Cramps version of Green Door, which is the first time The Cramps sound almost sweet, well almost.
With this second studio album, The Cramps took control of the sound and produced something a lot more controlled and mature, maybe this album could have been a lot more loose and chaotic, but I think ultimately that would have resulted in the album losing its sinister appeal, an appeal which is clearly something quite special with Psychedelic Jungle.