The Cramps should be easily dismissed due to their camp aesthetic, but then that would be dismissive of their punk ferocity, the skill and talent of their combined musicianship. Poison Ivy, still the baddest bitch on the block, also seems to me like one of the most underrated guitarists in the game. Guitarist? Also the band’s songwriter, arranger, producer, manager, and muse for Lux Interior’s perverted psychobilly love songs. Yes, every song he performed in front of an audience (including the residents of Napa State Mental Hospital) was all about Ivy. The Cramps made weird music for weird people. I immediately found myself part of their strange little cult. The sight of Lux in his skin-tight vinyl pink catsuit, trying his hardest to pioneer high heels for men. How could I not be a fan? The Cramps made many brilliant albums, yet Stay Sick remains the one for me, the album for which all other Cramp albums are judged. Surprised? Critics and bloggers favour Songs The Lord Taught Us or Psychedelic Jungle – but Stay Sick is my Cramps album. It brought Bikini Girls With Machine Guns into my life, to date their only Top Forty hit in the UK. But what a hit. An instantly iconic Cramps song, really.
Stay Sick makes no bold claims to being a piece of high art. It’s trashy, kitschy, low-rent, garish and defiantly punk. It’s the soundtrack to a night out I once had in my dreams. The record’s production, the sound of each instrument apart and together, is probably the best The Cramps have ever sounded, polished but not enough to totally remove the dirt. And that’s the way I like it. Like all Cramps albums, Stay Sick is kinky and slightly transgressive. A random lyrics from The Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon sums the mood of this album best: Learned how to shake my hips in the inner sanctum, Satan gave me tips and then I thanked him. But it’s too late for The Cramps to save their souls – they’ve already sold their souls to Rock ‘n’ Roll.
The Cramps understood better than most that rock ‘n’ roll should be primal, mostly hips and tits. But they also realised that it should be fun. Stay Sick manages to tick every box the band set out to tick, and then some. I never tire of this album, this band. Every interview makes me love them more. In fact, I read that Lux and Ivy (partners until Lux’s death) bought a house by a graveyard. If that isn’t the most Cramps thing ever, I’m not sure what is. Obviously, they bought a house by a graveyard. Could they ever live in a normal house near normal people? No, not this band. And I wouldn’t want them any other way.
Buy Stay Sick from iTunes or your local record shop now.