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Cramps | Fiends of Dope Islan | review | punk | Lollipop

The Cramps

Fiends of Dope Island (Vengeance)
by Brian Varney

Much like AC/DC, Ramones, or Fu Manchu, The Cramps make only one kind of album: Cramps albums. They only do one thing, but they've perfected it, so once the formula has been set into place, it's pretty much a plug-and-chug. For listeners who enjoy said formula, bands like this don't really make bad albums per se, merely pedestrian ones. After all, as long as they stick to what they know best, there's really no way of making a truly awful album.

There have been a couple of uncontestably great Cramps albums, the best being 1980's Songs the Lord Taught Us. It was this album where the template for all future Crampsian excursions was ratcheted into place and, perhaps more importantly, it was also a damn fine collection of rock 'n' roll songs. There have been, I dunno, probably seven or eight albums since then, and even though I haven't heard all of them, I can say with all confidence that they all sounded more or less like Songs the Lord Taught Us. Fiends of Dope Island, not surprisingly, follows the template.

Not that I'm complaining. AC/DC is one of my very favorite rock bands of all time, so I obviously don't mind a band sticking to what it's good at. This doesn't mean that I feel a compulsion to own all of their albums, but it does mean that I'll never turn an AC/DC album off. Ditto The Cramps. Fiends of Dope Island is the same album they've been making over and over for the past two decades, even if some of the faces aren't familiar and the ones that are look frighteningly decrepit (except, of course, for the ghoulishly ageless Poison Ivy, who by either trick photography or miraculous genetics, doesn't look that different than she did on the cover of that first album). The songs are the same bone-simple rockabilly ditties full of high-camp single entendres and goofball horror-movie imagery, the ghost of Nick Knox using one of his own bones to pound out the beat while Lux moans and convulses over top of the whole glorious racket. The ghost of Brian Gregory, meanwhile, leers evilly in the background.  

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