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I'm appreciating rock's occasional return to simplicity. Fitting in tightly with this motif is the impending release of the latest album from The Cramps. Hot damn. That band was my first personal departure from the strict code of musical tastes my high school friends and I followed in perfect lockstep. As a unit, we championed XTC, REM, The dbs, Young Fresh Fellows, Elvis Costello, The Feelies, Yo La Tengo, Scruffy The Cat, and anything from Athens, GA or New Zealand.

But I always had a creepy side that I kept secreted away from my friends. A side that craved the Other adolescent pornography found gleaming like guts between the pages of Fangoria magazine. It wasn't cool, like Jim Jarmusch, but it made my teenage blood boil in the same way. I had a crush on monster make-up, gore prosthetics, and the work of Tom Savini, Sam Raimi, Stuart Gordon, George Romero and Tobe Hooper. This was a league of men drawn to create some kind of weird splatter pornography where decapitations and chomped brains were the surrogate money shots, and I collected their work alone because I felt so alone with my desires.

And that's what drew me to The Cramps and, in some ways, away from my core group of friends. I saw a copy of Bad Music for Bad People at my local record store, and its cover art knocked me out. It was a crap-yellow background with an ink drawing of a fleshless fiend with a pompadour haircut. It had the band's name in that great creature double feature radioactive ghoul lettering, and song titles like "Goo Goo Muck" and "Human Fly." I bought it based solely on its aesthetics. (this was before i inherited my first copy of The Trouser Press and could fact-check most minor curiosities.) Then I bought others. And more. And even when I thought I was done buying albums by The Cramps, I would still fawn lovingly over their area of my record store's "imports" section because that's where one could find their 12" picture discs screened with a photograph of Poison Ivy in mid-squat.

Yesterday, an advance of their latest album arrived at my home. It's called The Fiends of Dope Island and, in case one might think this album could possibly be a departure for the band, allow me to reproduce its track list:

  1. Big Black Witchcraft Rock
  2. Papa Satan Sang Louie
  3. Hang Up
  4. Fissure of Rolando
  5. Dr. Fucker MD
  6. Dopefiend Boogie
  7. Taboo
  8. Elvis Fucking Christ!
  9. She's Got Balls
  10. Oowee Baby
  11. Mojo Man From Mars
  12. Color Me Black
  13. Wrong Way Ticket

(and yes, there are lucky 13 tracks.) The lettering on the CD case is a typeface meant to look like compositions of human bones, and there's even a dedication to shitty C-movie star John Agar. (maybe the cramps weren't so different than young fresh fellows after all) The refusal to mature that this album represents is sort of invigorating. So much so that I think I just got pushed over the edge into insanely poor judgment. That's right - I'm going to see House of 1000 Corpses.

WE FIRST MET ON 04.11.2003

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