Like evangelical preachers, the Cramps spin lurid tales of the human predilection for sin. According to their pop-culture bible, the same primitive hysteria underlying sex, drugs, violence, revival meetings and, of course, rock & roll lurks beneath all human activity; everything from Jack and Jill to Alice in Wonderland, from Samson and Delilah to "Shortnin' Bread," gets reduced to fuel for the fire and brimstone on Stay Sick. The Cramps just disagree with the morals of such fables. "Got my own ideas about the righteous kick," Lux Interior testifies on "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns." "You can keep the reward, I'd just as soon stay sick."
The Cramps' first album in four years and first domestic release of new material since 1983 shows their peculiar brand of psychosexual rockabilly to be quite healthy. When the Cramps first emerged in '77, they seemed doomed to be just another twist in the CBGB cocktail: four punk rockers with funny names playing mutant Link Wray chords and singing about "Green Fuzz." But unlike almost all their compatriots, the Cramps have proved their staying power. On the new album, Poison Ivy Rorschach's guitar is all burr and bristle; the ghost of Roy Orbison hiccups and growls through Interior as though the singer were swallowing hot tar in hell; Nick Knox knocks his drums like D.J. Fontana banging garbage cans in an alley; and new bass player Candy Del Mar gives the garage gospel a bogeyman boogie. The album is a stew of hoodoo, snatch and swamp things, as the Cramps jack through offbeat covers (Jimmie Rodgers's "Muleskinner Blues"), B-movie sound bites ("The Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon") and garbage rock ("Mama Oo Pow Pow").
On "Journey to the Center of a Girl," Interior tackles a question posed on 1986's Date With Elvis: "What's Inside a Girl?" The answer "a she-feast wrapped in silk" is disappointingly vague, but the journey to get there, through a swirling vortex of warbled Interior monologues, fuzz-buster guitar and cheesy effects, sounds like a stack of Pebbles 45s melted together. This record may not save your soul in fact, it definitely won't but it'll make you feel damned good. (RS 577)
(Posted: May 3, 1990)