The Cramps: Fiends of Dope Island

The Cramps
Fiends of Dope Island

There are times when I think I've outgrown slasher flicks and simply can't watch another camper impalement or zombie head chomp. Then some poor guy straps a lawn mower to his chest and I remember why I fell in love in the first place: The thrill of cheating death never gets old. The Cramps understand this and react accordingly. Sex, drugs, whatever--just do it before the big black car takes you away.

Thanks to diligent grave robbing, the Cramps have resurrected leopard-print rock once again, though their trademark psychobilly freakout still lives in the past. Rockabilly seems to resist contemporary genre updates--it just wouldn't sound right with a drum machine or some white-boy rap thrown in. On Fiends of Dope Island the bluesy, my-woman-done-left-me chord progressions and sultry walking basslines come straight out of a 1960s biker bar jukebox. Lux Interior howls as if he's on a strict diet of pills and gasoline fumes, and still manages to do some coherent Big Bopper-style oration mid-song. Throw in special appearances from the bombastic "Dr. Fucker M.D. (Musical Deviant)" and presidential candidate "Elvis Fucking Christ!" and you've got yourself a Satanist barbecue. Is it just me, or are those Russ Meyer's naughty kittens shimmying to "Dopefiend Boogie" in the backyard?

While they owe their sound to a history of musical misfits, the Cramps also pay direct tribute to a couple of authentic swingers. Their cover of Margarita Lecuona's "Taboo" has Interior lovesick and crooning, while their version of Jerry Reed's "Oowee Baby" loses its country twang to stripper drums and a ridiculous amount of vocal reverb. Even when Poison Ivy Rorschach blatantly steals the guitar riff from Link Wray's "Rumble" for the slow, sexy burn of "Color Me Black," the homage is still humble and sincere.

Fiends of Dope Island's B-movie tracks lure in the innocent the old fashioned way--with some fake blood and some parent-frightening pelvic thrusts. The Cramps may not be breaking new ground outside of the graveyard, but they don't necessarily have to: Who's going to tell the Grim Reaper he needs to get with the times?

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