Survive long enough, and your originality will one day be saluted. Not only has the fearsomely reductive rock'n'roll pioneered by The Cramps 25 years ago actually passed into the mainstream, their influence has even been acknowledged by an artier crowd. A fondly remembered Seventies performance to a captive audience of patients at an American asylum, long circulated on shaky film footage, was restaged in its entirety at London's ICA only a few months ago.
It'd be heartening to report that a young audience inspired by, say, the White Stripes and, especially, the Detroit Cobras, another mobile musical library of forgotten classics, had turned up to pay tribute to Poison Ivy Rorschach and Lux Interior, the mommy and daddy of the entire genre, but it wouldn't be true. The sold-out crowd seem to be much the same bunch who followed the band in their heyday. When Lux introduced a fierce version of "New Kind of Kick" with the words: "This one's for all you drug addicts out there," I swear half the audience gazed skywards wistfully.
Lest we forget, Lux (born Erick Purkhiser) is now 57 years old, an age when golf starts to become something of a chore. This man was born into a world of vaudeville, not rock'n'roll. He was 10 before Elvis Presley made his mark in music. Yet by this evening's tumultuous encore of "Surfin' Bird". prefaced with a stupendous impersonation of The King at his most speed-addled, he's tied a large bra thrown from the crowd around his chops like a headscarf, his insanely tight trousers have been pulled down to reveal everything except his motivations, and he's actively considering whether to risk a handstand while perched atop a speaker stack.
One might suggest that the word "dignity" does not appear in his lexicon, but there's something gloriously unforced about this display, which can't be said about other, richer veterans (and yes, I mean Mick Jagger, a great frontman who chooses to play a demented aerobics instructor instead). Ivy can't be very much younger than Lux, but her ineffable grumpy cool remains undiminished by time, and her trademark, heavily reverbed guitar sound is unmistakable. Unlike some of the songs, frankly.
"Garbageman" was in there somewhere, and their time-honoured cover of the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" was terrific, but much of the set simply merged into one. There's only so much you can do with the old 1-4-5 progression after all. Yet it sounded simply terrifying, just the thing to annoy the kids with. Inevitably some idiot (for it's invariably the opinion of "some idiot" that you overhear) commented loudly on the way out that it was "the worst show I've ever seen them play". But he was in a minority of one. The rest of us were delighted to see that The Cramps are still living in their own world.Reuse content