Big Beat From Badsville
ONCE AGAIN, LURCH and Morticia have risen from their tombs. That's hiccuping zombie singer Lux Interior and his ax-wielding, Vamparella gal-pal, Poison Ivy, of course. These two psychobilly ghouls have starred in the voodoo sex sitcom The Cramps for more than two decades, and they haven't altered the rockabilly-meets-garage-punk carnage by one pubic hair for their 12th and most hellacious album since 1990's Stay Sick. The aptly named "Cramp Stomp" kicks off the lascivious and monstrous festivities with Henry Drumdini's hypnotic Ubangi drumbeat, and Ivy's bump-and-grind guitar attack. Lux may be approaching the half-century mark, but he's got more rock-and-roll attitude, energy and guts than a crypt full of Beck, Prodigy and Marilyn Manson cadavers. Double-entendre lyrics run amok at this sonic strip club from hell. Check out "It Thing Hard-On," "Devil Behind the Bush" and "Wet Nightmare" for a good, stiff dose of '50s-style stag-flick innuendo. Feast your eyes on the jungle wackiness of "Monkey With Your Tail," a bouncy, hummable little ditty. The most straight-ahead traditional rockabilly number, "Hypno Sex Ray," is so finger snappin' cool it could resurrect Gene Vincent from his grave. You can wager a week's salary and Bettie Page's ass those are some huge blue suede shoes to fill.
Very aptly named, Pop Quiz, Shoebomb's self-produced freshman effort, effectively captures the vigor of their live shows, portraying the band as exactly what they are: superior, sugary-sweet pop with hooks in all the right places. Aside from the few less electric and more subtle exceptions--"Red Boots" and "Hody Body"--all the tracks are written in a Power-pop 101 idiom that while infectious to the point of epidemic, also threatens redundancy. In that respect, Pop Quiz--though sure to produce echoalia in even the most hardened and jaded ear--does succumb to the pitfalls of the genre it so completely embraces. The songs are clean and streamlined, consistently formulated and ready for radio play. Diane Juergen's aggressive confidence behind the drums is the tie that binds, uniformly exceptional and shining most brightly on "Deli Girl" and "Greeting Cards." The disc reaches its high point just past the middle with "742" and the live show barn-burner "Bigger," flagging only near the end with the predictable "Tour Bus," and finishing strong with "Deli Girl." Joe Manas reaches new heights of Marshall machismo on more-recently penned songs like "Maddie"--perhaps a sign of things to come, meaning a bit less sugar and little more spice. Between Joe Manas' raunchy guitar work and Melissa Manas' sexy, snarly delivery, "U mass" is the song with the balls, and could fit nicely among Kelley Deal's latest on Boom!Boom!Boom!. Shoebomb has definitely done their homework: Pop Quiz scores a B+.
CONSIDERING HOW many contemporary blues players are trying to be the new Stevie Ray, listening to the blues can bring you the blues. Bell, though, is something else altogether. Son of blues harp player Carey Bell, Lurrie plays a nasty Chicago style that merits grouping him with the likes of Buddy Guy. If you're tired of those perfunctory sleek, squealing guitar lines--and you should be--you'll lap up Bell's dirty tone and unpredictable soloing. Funky vocals are part of the package, too. It wouldn't be hard to imagine this album having appeared on Chess Records back in the '60s--which is the ultimate compliment, given how the new breed of ax handlers can't seem to get anything gritty under their fingernails. And if this does it for you, check out his even nastier Mercurial Son from 1995. This guy's so hot that if your interest in the blues is only marginal (as is mine), his output is still significant enough to deserve some of your shelf space.
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