1986 – Big Beat
Garage Rock/ Punk/ Psychobilly
This third long play release from deranged punk-greasers The Cramps is another high powered reworking of the real gone spirit of fifties rock ’n’ roll, but I’ve got to say that the group’s charm is starting to wear thin with this one. From the opening of How Far Can Too Far Go? I was more than a little disappointed with the fact that on A Date With Elvis The Cramps seem to have decided to start using the studio as a place to record actual music rather than as the setting for unleashing a certain kind of real gone madness.
I mean, the music still sticks to its raw, reverb laden roots, but the element of present danger that made their earlier records so wonderful seems to be missing. Not to mention that the characteristic mistakes and muddiness have all been cleaned up a bit on this album which really only goes to highlight their no-more-than-competent musicianship. None of this is made any better by the massive lyrical focus on sleaze and sex on this record without any real sinisterness to back them up. I mean, tracks like (Hot Pool Of) Womanneed and Hot Pearl Snatch just sound like the band is trying that bit too hard to be the hated provocateurs of the world and this obviousness only serves to lessen whatever impact those tracks might have actually had.
This being said, there are a few tracks on this record that really do have that touch of evil which makes The Cramps so fun and exciting. The brutal hedonism of People Ain’t No Good, for example, works very well with its throbbing, pulsating beat and Lux Interior’s breathy voice works itself up into a sort of beautifully frenzied pathos that sounds like a drunken Jerry Lee Lewis in commune with the devil. Unfortunately, however, great tracks like this just don’t form the bulk of the album and instead we are given tunes like the Roy Orbison inspired Kizmiaz which merely repeats the same crude sex-pun over the course of a rather tedious three minutes.
It is telling, I think, that two of the best tracks on A Date With Elvis are actually covers (the traditional tune Chicken and the Charlie Feathers song It’s Just That Song). It is here that the band are really on full form and are able to successfully butcher the history of rockabilly music and expose its sleazy, slimy entrails. On most of their other attempts, however, it all comes across as a little bit forced and just a little bit ridiculous.
Musically though, this record is really rather fun with all of its historically referential guitar riffs and low-down hootenanny riots, but still I would say that it isn’t quite up there with the band’s best or most inventive work. Everything’s played with a sufficient degree of love and car and the production is immaculate, but, to my mind, this is a downside when it comes to a band that used to take so much pride in doing everything so incredibly wrong.
Overall I would say that A Date With Elvis is a decent record. It has its fun and then it stops and there’s really little else you can say about it. As to the question the group asked us at the beginning of the album: how far can too far go? A whole lot further than this.
Here is People Ain’t No Good, one of the dirtier, more dangerous tracks from A Date With Elvis.
- Songs The Lord Taught Us – The Cramps (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- The Rockabilly Roadtrip: Stop Two (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- Elvis Presley’s 1950s Albums Remastered (noise11.com)
- First Stop On The Rockabilly Roadtrip (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)