The Cramps

Fiends of Dope Island

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Having decided long ago that messing with their one of a kind formula was a fruitless waste of time, the Cramps now seem happy to let albums such as 2003's Fiends of Dope Island perpetuate their unmistakable sound: authentic psychobilly riffs executed with garage punk panache, combined with fun-loving lyrics about bondage, drugs, Satanism, slasher flicks -- in sum, all things kitsch and trash culture. Even better, inexorable advancing age has apparently only served singer Lux Interior's desires, by helping him look like the gloriously decrepit B-movie monster that he's always wanted to be on the record's striking cover. Once inside, the Cramps' latest amusement park house of horrors of an album confirms that Interior is again up to his patented vocal tricks -- be it howling possessed on "Papa Satan Sang Louie," growling lasciviously on the (Seattle) Wailers' "Hang Up," exaggeratedly crooning like the King himself over Jerry Reed's "Oowee Baby," or convulsively "bow-bow-bowing" his way through "Elvis Fucking Christ!" As for his life partner in crime, Poison Ivy, her crunchy grooves shimmy their way across tracks like "Big Black Witchcraft Rock" and "Dopefiend Boogie"; her primal riffs pay tribute to Link Wray with the "Rumble" replica "Color Me Black"; and her stinging, fleet-fingered leads positively electrify anthems both swinging ("Fissure of Rolando") and ripping ("Wrong Way Ticket"), all the while conjuring mental images of her studiously disinterested expression under red bouffant and over high-heeled s**t-kicker boots, her cigarette dangling distractedly. Moving right along, the duo creates twisted surf music with both "Mojo Man from Mars" and "Taboo" (a cover of obscure songwriter Margarita Lecuona), and even makes sure to provide entertaining titles to weaker numbers like "Dr. Fucker M.D. (Musical Deviant)" and "She's Got Balls." The rhythm section of Chopper Franklin (bass) and Harry Drumdini (errr, drums) handles its appointed task (providing those raunchy stripper rhythms) capably and unobtrusively so the two head ghouls can do their thang. In short, a solid outing -- unmistakable as anyone but the Cramps -- that should neither detract nor add to their established legacy. Their fans could probably ask for nothing more at this stage.

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