Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Cramps release their slithering, stunning debut album

The Cramps :  Garbageman

On April 1, 1980 The Cramps released Songs The Lord Taught Us, described by the NME's Paul Rambali in this way: "It shivers ands shakes, it slithers and crawls and it throbs and trembles". Only 9 of the 13 tracks on this psychobilly stunner are original, including "Garbageman" which announces the band's trash aesthetic with the lines "You ain't no punk, you punk/ You wanna talk about the real junk? " 

The legendary video below was shot at midnight in a crypt near Shepperton, Middlesex in ten minutes.

With the help of producer Alex Chilton, Songs was recorded the summer before at the Sam C Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. "We just kept pinching ourselves," guitarist Poison Ivy says. "We couldn't believe we were there. " The sessions were a mess.  The label ran out of money. The engineers wanted nothing to do with Chilton. Eventually after months an dmonth of mixinng, the album came out with what Lux Interior refers to as "swimmy sounding".

Creem's Robot A Hull  was one of the critics who loved the album, declaring:

"The album recalls every forgotten sleazy diner, every stinking bus terminal, every weather-beaten drive-in you've been in or dreamt of. It unleashes a noise so loud, so uncontrolled, so jittering and shivering with the nightmares of a thousand-and-one restless nights, that one may be moved to run in panic, switch on the lights, and cower in the nearest closet.

The Village Voice's Robert Christgau wasn't so pleased. He graded the album a B-, writing:

From the time they stormed a jaded--hence novelty-hungry--CBGB two or three years ago, they've been a joke that wears thin before it's over. "TV Set" and "Garbage Man" and a couple of others are everything they're supposed to be--archetypically rockin', outrageously funny. But when the songs are neither or even only one, the band's inability to sing, play, produce, or prance around your living room detracts significantly from your pleasure. Then you stop listening altogether.

The Cramps toured England with The Fall, whose frontman Mark E Smith told Lux he "shouldn't bother with all that Kiss theatrical shit. You don't need it". But The Cramps were always about putting on the best live show possible. They won over England. ( the debut ranks #15 on NME's Top Albums of 1980 list)
 Next would come an American tour . And then in May, guitarist Bryan Gregory quit the band.

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