Big Beat from Badsville – The Cramps

1997 – Epitpah

Garage Rock/ Punk/ Psychobilly


Everybody’s favourite demonic rockabilly nerds The Cramps are back again with a seventh full length studio record, and I’ve got to say that it’s nice to hear that after so many years they seem to have recaptured the danger of their earlier releases. Blasting out from the gates with the wildly energetic and mildly creepy Cramp Stomp the album blasts away at the stereo system like a stick of aural dynamite. The riffs are pared back to a growling necessity and the drums focus on a steady back-beat allowing vocalist Lux Interior to get real gone all around the place screeching and screaming like the lunatic we all know he is.

To be honest, however, the band are still playing on their old themes of psycho-horror and deviant sexuality, but at least with Big Beat From Badsville it’s not all just some over-the-top joke. I mean, earlier records like A Date With Elvis and Stay Sick! almost reached the point of stupidity with their relentless kitsch, but with this release they seem to have realized that the real power of their music comes from the churning rawness and forceful energy with which the play and not simply from an excess of sleaze.

Of course, the record does have its fair share of schlock based dirtiness and bad sex puns, but this time around the music was solid enough that it didn’t really irritate as much as it has before. I mean, Devil Behind That Bush and Wet Nightmare doe contain some of the worst and most pointless double entendres that have ever entered into music, but at least they also contain some truly rockin’ rockabilly riffs to round everything out.

There’s also a note of snide self-consciousness about Big Beat that sets it somewhat aside from their other, tackier releases. I mean, Sheena’s In A Goth Gang contains no end of laughs for someone who’s watched the masses of Cramps fans trying to walk about their tight leather pants in the middle of a summer heatwave, and the grunts and howls of Monkey With Your Tail are just so knowingly ridiculous that they push through the barrier of nonsense and become actually rather hilarious.

Camp comic book mystique aside, however, the fact remains that The Cramps have by this point really mastered their use of the twelve bar blues, and each and every cut on this record is pumping and pounding in all of the ways the rockabilly should be. Yes, lyrically it makes you giggle or cringe, but when that throbbing back-beat and crunching guitar hits you there’s nothing left to do but dance, and that, after all, is really what rockabilly is all about. Just try not tapping your toes along to something like Hypno Sex Ray, and you swiftly find that it’s damned near impossible. It’s also worth mentioning that this is the first record that the band have been able to achieve this level of danceability with purely off their own backs: not one single cover version to be found on here, just Interior and Rorschach’s ridiculous yet catchy song-writing skills.

So, in conclusion I’m going to have to say that Big Beat From Badsville is a pretty good record, even if it does have its fair share of downsides. The lyrics at times are hilarious in a good way and at others laughable in a bad way, and the record is piled high with so much schtick that it’s difficult at times to tell whether The Cramps are a real band or just a cast of cartoon characters, but either way their music is just so gosh-darned catchy that it’s hard not to have some fun with this. Everything is just so perfectly designed to get your hips swinging and your toes tapping.



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