The Record Collection: 1989 – 3

The Cramps | A Date With Elvis | Big Beat 1986 |


The last great The Cramps album, A Date With Elvis arrived five years after Psychedelic Jungle. It has far better production than their previous efforts, contains some of their finest tunes and is as raw, wild and wicked as you want The Cramps to be. They enjoyed a minor hit with «Can Your Pussy Do the Dog», and the album also includes the single «What’s Inside a Girl», the Eastern-tinged gem «Kizmiaz» and my personal favorite «Cornfed Dames».

A Date With Elvis is a entertaining and highly exciting mix of sexual obsession, vintage b-movies, 50s rock ‘n’ roll, equally an homage to their heroes as an immediate classic in its own rights.

Treat Her Right | Tied to the Tracks | RCA 1989 |


I saw Morphine live once. It was in the mid ’90s in my college town, where they were like a super big deal at the time. Deservedly so I must say, the Boston-band sure made some good good good albums with just the right mix of hipster jazz coolness and alternative rock flavor. Until Mark Sandman tragically passed away from a heart attack in 1999, while on stage in Italy. Before Sandman started up Morphine, he was part of Treat Her Right (as was drummer Billy Conway) This is their second album, and they share many of the groovy, sexy elements we came to know from Morphine, but with a bit more focus on the blues rock side of things. I’m not the biggest fan of that part to be honest, but tracks like «Junkyard», «Hank» and «King of Beers» sure got an irresistible swing. Revisiting this made me think that I never actually heard their debut album from 1986.

Greg Sage | Straight Ahead | Enigma 1985 |


Oddly enough I discovered Greg Sage a bit before Wipers. They were soon to become one of my all time favorite bands, but this was the gateway album. Straight Ahead was an astonishing effort in 1985, and it sounds as timeless and brilliant today. Arriving two years after Wipers’ iconic ‘Over the Edge’, this is a far more sparse, somber and acoustic piece of work. J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr) later covered «On the Run» on his first solo album, and he expressed how «Straight Ahead sold me on the concept of acoustic guitar. I didn’t think too much about acoustic guitar before, but Greg Sage somehow made it ok.» The songs itself are not that far from Wipers’ modus operandi, especially present on the upbeat side 1, compared to more gloomy flip side. They’re equally brilliant to me, but I still got a soft spot for the depressive and gothic folk sounds of side 2, including «Astro Cloud,» and «World Without Fear.»

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds | Kicking Against the Pricks | Mute 1986 |


I was partly attracted, partly alienated by Nick Cave and his bad seeds. Unquestionably drawn into the dark world of cigarettes, seduction and sin, but also a bit scared off by the sharp dressed badasses as pictured here on the front and back cover. Nick Cave, Blixa Bargeld, Barry Adamson… I mean these were obviously someone not to mess around with. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds had an aura of the adult world; all I could do was peak inside.

I was already a huge fan back when I bought their third album is a collection of cover songs. It also taught me a thing or two about the American songbook, and I particularly fell for Jimmy Webb’s «By the Time I Get to Phoenix» and «Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart» made famous by Gene Pitney. But the whole album was just a treasure chest in my early days of music discovery.

Pixies | Doolittle | 4AD 1989 |


I bought Doolittle not too long after I’d purchased Surfer Rosa. It was a warm summer’s day in 1989, and it’s fair to say that Pixies made the soundtrack not only to that one but to basically every summer ever since. It’s been 30 of them down the line and counting, and it still fails to disappoint.

This is a perfect album in my book; the pop hits («Here Comes Your Man», «Wave of Mutilation», «Monkey Gone to Heaven»), the noise blasts («Tame», «Crackity Jones»), the irresistible gems («Debaser», «Mr. Grieves», «Gouge Away», «Hey»), the whole album is so jam-packed with classics it even surpassed their debut (how is that even humanly possible). This meant something when you were 16-17 years old. Doolittle sliced my eyeballs wide open and made my heart explode into a thousand pieces. Still looking for ways to put them all back together again.

Government Issue | Crash | Giant 1988 |


I haven’t listened to Crash in ages, but it all comes back to me now. «Better Than T.V» was actually one of my teen anthems back in the days, and yeah, it still sound as sharp after 30 years. The whole album does, really, characterized with crisp production by guitarist Tom Lyle, great songwriting, and really tight playing all over. This album shows how eclectic and melodic GI became towards the end of their career, just check out «Connecticut» or the title track (lead vocal by bassist Jay Robbins, who later formed Jawbox). Government Issue (1981-89) are obviously of historical importance as one of the original hardcore punk bands, for being highly influential in the evolution of post-hardcore, and personally they turned me on to the whole DC scene. Singer and only steady member John ‘Stabb’ Schroeder died of cancer in 2016.

Imitation Life | Scoring Correctly at Home | New Rose 1988 |


I didn’t know much about Imitation Life when I bought this album in 1989, and I don’t know much now 30 years later. They were apparently based in Los Angeles, played pretty hard hitting, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll, leaning towards both power pop, jangle rock and pub/garage rock. Almost like a west coast equivalent to The Del Fuegos or The Replacements, they also share some similarities to the Aussie scene at the time (Sunnyboys, The Triffids, Died Pretty et al). On this, their sophomore album I believe, they included some great guests like Peter Case (The Plimsouls), Steven Roback (The Rain Parade) and John Easedale (Dramarama), and it’s fair to assume they were part of the flowering LA circuit at the time. Scoring Correctly at Home is not exactly a ’80s lost masterpiece, but it’s a good time all right, and front man and main songwriter Alan Berman sure had the skills to write a catchy tune or two. «Already Spoken For» and «Sad Man» are among the standout tracks here. Glad I got this one, and wonder what happened to Imitation Life.

Barracudas ‎| Drop Out With The Barracudas | Voxx ,1982 |


It took me awhile before I realized this was not an American ‘60s group, but actually a British band way out of time. Drop Out With The Barracudas look and sound like something from the mid-’60s, but crosses many musical eras and geographical origins on its way.

The album cover presents four smiling young men in summer clothing and with surfboards under their arm, heading towards the eternal waves of the California beaches. The illusion is further substantiated by song titles such as «Summer Fun», «California Lament» and «On the Strip». But The Barracudas didn’t belong in the California sun, but in London’s dark underworld. In short: Front man Jeremy Gluck left home country Canada and Ottawa as 18-year-old, landed in the middle of the punk’s mecca in 1977 and started as a writer in Sounds. During a concert he met on the Swiss Robin Wills. They started a friendship based on a common retro-romantic interest in Beach Boys, Flamin ‘Groovies, Peebles records, surf rock, garage punk and flower-pop. And it was precisely this unforgettable cocktail Gluck and Wills mixed into what was to become The Barracudas. The band was formed in 1979, complete with a short-lived rhythm section consisting of David Buckley (bass) and drummer Nicky Turner. The Barracudas found a niche between the up side and the down side that proved to be strikingly effective, and they handled both with equal ability for razor-sharp songs without ending up as a novelty, retro act.

Great Plains | Colorized! | Diabolo 1989 |


Great Plains existed in the 1980s, formed in 1981 and disbanded in 1989, they released a couple really wonderful albums and EP’s – particularly their 1984 full length debut and near forgotten, near classic Born in a Barn. Great Plains went under the radar for most people, which is a huge shame because they were such a great, lovable band and in many ways indie rock pioneers. They should’ve been underground superstars for sure, but I guess their sound kinda fell between two or more chairs. They were clever and smart, and played some sort of lo-fi, new wave-folkish jangly garage punk. Lead singer Ron House’ (who went on to form Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments) high pitch desperate, joyous vocal style is an acquired taste, but certainly gave Great Plains a distinct flavor. When I listen to their songs today I can hear relations to local stars like Pere Ubu, and also The Soft Boys, Modern Lovers, The Clean, XTC, early Green On Red, The Feelies, Tall Dwarfs (actually, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they hailed from New Zealand instead of Ohio).

I bought this album in 1989 without knowing anything about Great Plains really, but soon enough learned that ‘Colorized!’ was a greatest hits collection from a career without any major hits. Well, they sure became classics in my book, especially the personal favorite and organ fueled «The Way She Runs a Fever», but also «Serpent Mound», «Dick Clark» and of course their ode to president Rutherford B. Hayes. Oh yeah, Great Plains were something else indeed.

Meat Puppets | Mirage | SST 1987 |


The fourth full length from this beloved Arizona trio is a wonderful effort. For each album the Kirkwood brothers – and drummer Bostrom – continued to evolve from their punk roots and embrace a wider musical approach. Mirage is a sprawling album of psychedelic country and funky western, still remarkably coherent sounding and their most well produced album thus far.

Stuck between the landmark ‘II’ album and their commercial 1994 breakthrough ‘Too High Too Die’, it’s easy to ignore the complete Meat Puppets’ catalog from the 1980s. They are all semi-classics in my book, but since Mirage was my first Puppets album, I still have a special soft spot for this here baby. It’s a mirage from desert suburbia all right, an invitation to a different place. Nothing there to see, suddenly from nowhere, things that shouldn’t be. I’m still on the lookout.

Droogs ‎| Kingdom Day | Music Maniac 1987 |


Droogs formed in Los Angeles back in the early 1970s, around the time when ‘A Clockwork Orange’ made a splash in the cinemas all over the world with ‘droogs’ being the dystopian gang of thugs as central figures. Droogs the band dropped several garage rock influenced singles in the 1970s, and made their album debut with Stone Cold World in 1984. By then bassist Dave Provost (The Dream Syndicate) had joined their ranks, and the band added some more dynamics and psychedelic flavor into their sound.

Kingdom Day is a raw, authentic document from a band with just enough layers of variation to stay interesting throughout a full album. Droogs never got the same attention as other contemporary LA acts at the time, but kept going strong for about 20 years after this one. They called it quits in the early 1990s, as yet another sadly under-appreciated band.

Reklamer

The Record Collection: 1988 (1-20)

The album collection in chronological order from when it was bought. Revisited one at the time.

Fetchin Bones | Bad Pumpkin | Capitol 1986 |

Underrated and sadly forgotten North Carolina quintet combining a kind of Southern jangly vibe with restless proto-grunge. They supported R.E.M and the B-52’s, whom they both are sonically related to. This is their second album, marking their move from small db Records to a major label without losing their spark. Rather this LP still holds up thanks to careful production by Don Dixon and tight songs throughout the record. And Hope Nicholls was a great singer back then, and she still is.

Ben Vaughn Combo | The Many Moods of Ben Vaughn | Restless/Making Waves 1986 |

‘I got a 1969 Rambler American/Baby aren’t you impressed/Sure I could have a Datsun 280 Z/But I’m not like all the rest’ Ben Vaughn blends humor and wit with classic American music; rock’n’roll, rockabilly and country twang. He’s been doing his thing since the early 1980’s, and has released albums better than this during his long career. But Vaughn and his Combo had such an irresistible charm on songs like “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee)”, “I Dig You Wig” and “Wrong Haircut” that makes his debut album still a treat to listen to.

The Dream Syndicate | This Is Not The New Dream Syndicate Album… Live! | A&M 1984 |

Recorded live at the Aragon in Chicago one hot July night in 1984, when The Dream Syndicate toured on ‘The Medicine Show’ (released a month prior) with R.E.M. Only five songs long, but these are all classics – from a band in blistering shape. The classic line up of Steve Wynn, Dennis Duck, guitarist Karl Precoda on his last album with the Syndicate, and newcomer Mark Walton. Tommy Zvoncheck guests on keys, but this performance is first and foremost about four guys and great songs; long jams, feedback orgies and the joy of a sweaty club night. That’s rock and roll.

Guadalcanal Diary | 2×4 | Elektra/Asylum 1987 |


Producer Don Dixon is synonymous with some of the finest guitar rock of the 1980s, with a jangly signature sound that mainly captured the spirit of Southern indie and mostly known for his work with early R.E.M. Guadalcanal Diary, also from Georgia, never earned the same levels of commercial success. A new listen to the hands down masterpiece ‘2×4’ serves as a reminder on how that is just unfair. They shared some obvious similarities, but this quartet had a more direct and extrovert approach to their songwriting. This is their finest moment, an energetic and eclectic set of pure excellent songs.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs | Bikini Red | Elektra 1987 |


London based Screaming Blue Messiahs rose from the ashes of Motor Boys Motor (named after a 101’ers tune) exposing a crew owing debt to the likes of Bo Diddley, Little Richard and Captain Beefheart. With some adjustments to the line-up, the smokin’ trio was finally settled as the highly skilled outfit of Bill Carter on guitar and vocals, Chris Thompson on bass and Kenny Harris on thundering drums. Soon after they were renamed the Screaming Blue Messiahs. The Vic Maile produced ‘Bikini Red’ saw the band dwelling even deeper into iconic American pop and trash culture. Complete with references to Elvis, cars, booze, TV evangelists and fast living, the music itself proves an amalgam of rockabilly, rhythm & blues, hillbilly and surf fronted by Bill Carter who (with an American accent) declared that “Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge,” “I Can Speak American” and even “I Wanna Be a Flintstone.

Various artists | I Was A Teenage Zombie | Enigma 1987 |


Still haven’t seen the movie, but suspect the soundtrack is superior to the comedy-horror flick. This is a decent selection with some of the finest indie artists of the time picked from the Enigma roster. The db’s, Smithereens, and Los Lobos are all in here, and the Fleshtones got a minor hit with the theme song. The highlights are Violent Femmes’ “Good Feeling” and The Dream Syndicate with the haunting masterpiece “Halloween.”

R.E.M | Chronic Town | I.R.S 1982
R.E.M | Murmur | I.R.S 1983 |
R.E.M | Reckoning | I.R.S 1984 |


I discovered R.E.M with ‘Life’s Rich Pageant’ as a 13-14 year old kid, and immediately fell in love, not only with R.E.M but in alternative American guitar rock in general. So when I finally switched over from cassettes to LP’s in 1988, purchasing their back catalog was obviously a high priority. One lucky day I went home with ‘Chronic Town’, ‘Murmur’ and ‘Reckoning’ bought from a friend, meaning days and weeks of deep listening. Humming along to barely recognizable lyrics. R.E.M might went on to release better albums later in their career, but these three albums, they’re all equal to me, really captures all I love about them. And they still sound as adventurous and amazing as they did on that February day in 1988.

Green On Red | Gas Food Lodging | Enigma 1985 |


Green On Red released nothing but excellent albums between 1982-88, and some great moments in the years after. This is the band in its prime; Dan Stuart, Big Dog MacNicol (RIP), Jack Waterson, Chuck Prophet and Chris Cacavas made one helluva great line up, supported with fine production from Paul B. Cutler of the Dream Syndicate. From the blazing opener ‘That’s What Dreams’ to the campfire version of ‘We Shall Ocercome’, this is rootsy ragged rock at it’s finest, but side 2 with ‘Sixteen Ways’, ‘The Drifter’ and ‘Sea Of Cortez’ are particular standouts. Heck, all of them are.

Thin White Rope | Bottom Feeders | Zippo/Frontier 1988|

Not too many bands can boast a recorded history without any major flaws. But Northern California’s Thin White Rope are one of those. They made great studio albums throughout, well known for their even more ferocious live shows of massive wall of guitars and bulldozer sound. The group never really fit into the categories used for branding guitar dominated rock in the 1980s. Thin White Rope were too harsh to be labeled as jangle, too loud for the emerging alternative country movement and too dark to fit into the flowery Paisley Underground. ‘Bottom Feeders’ is an EP of four originals and two covers (Jimmy Reed’s “Ain’t That Loving You Baby” and highlighted with a blistering live version of Suicide’s “Rocket USA”) and tucked between the bleak masterpieces ‘Moonhead’ and astonishing ‘In The Spanish Cave’. But there’s no reason to ignore this little beast of chainsaw guitars, raspy vocal and spooky vibes. Great cover art by Steve Blickenstaff.

The Dead Kennedys | Frankenchrist | Alternative Tentacles 1985 |


In an ideal world, songs about corrupt government, robots replacing the working class, suburban decay and structural racism would be of out of date some 30 years down the line. Alas, as we all know, the topics raised on ‘Frankenchrist’ are more relevant than ever. “No wonder others hate us/And the Hitlers we handpick/To bleed their people dry/For our evil empire”, Biafra sings on the album standout ‘Stars and Stripes of Corruption’ like an omen for the presidency and leadership in 2018. ‘Frankenchrist’ might lack the immediate punk anthems of its predecessors, but musically this is also Kennedy’s best and most diverse album, where they expanded their punk roots and embraced a far more eclectic sound to include surf, Latin, psychedelic and synth elements. The album is mostly remembered for the massive controversy that followed, when the band was brought to court – and to their knees – due to the inlay poster ‘Penis Landscape’ by H.R Giger. Such fools, when the real concern should’ve been on solving the real problems outlined here. ‘Frankenchrist’ is an underrated gem in the band’s catalog.

The Replacements | Let it Be | Twin/Tone / Zippo 1984 |


This is just the ultimate album when you’re 16 and life to go. The Replacements’ combination of restless energy and slacker attitude, teen angst and drunken confidence hit like a bomb when I bought ‘Let It Be’ in 1988, and it became the soundtrack into adolescence. “How young are you?/How old am I?/Let’s count the rings around my eyes” is just an ace opening statement into an album packed with classic coming of age tunes miles ahead from their previous more punk based efforts, sometimes like a mix of the Stones’ swagger and ‘Born to Run’ era Springsteen. The album cover is perfect too, remember how I just wanted to climb that roof and squeeze in between these four hoodlums from Minneapolis.

Green On Red | Gravity Talks | Slash 1983 |


I first heard Green On Red on the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation, where “Five Easy Pieces” was a standout. Driven by Chris Cacavas’ psychedelic keyboard swirls and Dan Stuart’s snarling vocals, the band found their own place in their infancy combining 60’s garage/psychedelia and Dylanesque folk-rock. Gravity Talks is a very fine document of this epoch, provided by a bunch of clever outlaw kids from Arizona still not sure about where to go. I love the nervous desperation that hangs over the whole album, a youthful energy impossible to replicate later in a career. ‘We don’t pretend to know everything or speak out loud like our parents did’, Stuart sings on the anthemic “Brave Generation”, name checking Fitzgerald and Faulkner on a coming of age story of growing up between the Vietnam war and Cold War anxiety: ‘We’re not beat, we’re not hip, we’re the Brave Generation, what a trip.’

The Del Fuegos | Boston Mass | Slash 1985 |


Yet another album bought off the ‘Slash Cuts’ compilation I guess. There was nothing hip or super fancy about the Del Fuegos in 1988, still aren’t. But their basic and credible urban heartland rock ‘n’ roll has some strong timeless qualities – and time has fared rather well with this one, their second album. Fronted by the Zanes’ brothers and produced by Mitchell Froom, Del Fuegos’ hammered out a couple of easy to like bar room and streetwise backroad tunes – equally perfect for both purposes (not at the same time though). This is the ‘sound of our town’, that’s the sound of Boston, Mass all right.

The Dream Syndicate | Medicine Show | A&M 1984 |

Following their raucous debut full length, The Dream Syndicate signed with a major label, teamed up with renowned producer Sandy Pearlman (Blue Öyster Cult, The Dictators, The Clash) and spent five months in the studio to finish their Medicine Show. It was met with various receptions at the time, but has gained favorable to classical status over the years. Pearlman and Syndicate shaped a far different sound for this album, more related to Television, The Cars and Neil Young than Velvet Underground. This is American gothic stories filled with some of Steve Wynn’s most memorable characters on songs like “Burn”, “Armed With An Empty Gun” and “Bullet With My Name On It.” But the panoramic widescreen vision reveals in its full on side 2: The title track, the blistering jam “John Coltrane Stereo Blues” and “Merritville” are all epic and has deservedly so become standards in the band’s catalogue. Medicine Show was obtained at a time when learning the lyrics was part of buying an album. I memorized all of these songs by heart, and they’re still holding on to me.

Hüsker Dü | Warehouse: Songs And Stories | Warner 1987 |

Could have been the one to boast Zen Arcade or New Day Rising as my entry points to Hüsker Dü, but as it happened their swan song Warehouse: Songs and Stories became my gateway album. I discovered them without any anticipation or deep knowledge about their astonishing back catalogue. I was just thrown into this sprawling sonic assault of thin fuzz, frenetic pace and way to clever poetry for a kid my age. It was almost too much. I guess the sheer intensity and emotional depth did resonate very well at the time. And the songs are catchy as hell. I didn’t care to much about the front cover though, but adored the back cover; those three weird and average looking guys laying on the grass surrounded by psychedelic blasts. 30 years down the road it still sounds like an amalgam of 60’s pop anthems filtered through a punk psychedelic odyssey, I particularly recall “Ice Cold Ice”, “Could You Be the One” and especially “She Floated Away” being played nonstop. Warehouse: Songs And Stories is a breathtaking kaleidoscopic soundtrack of youth, the sound of a band that had finally grown up – but also a band that were falling apart. In the end, I guess everything does.

The Del-Lords | Johnny Comes Marching Home | EMI America 1986 |

Of all the albums bought in my pioneer days, this is the one I probably know the least. I don’t recall the actual purchase, nor the songs in detail. So with a bit of excitement I drop the needle and press play. Just like the first time. The archetypal 80s sound aside, time has fared rather well with Johnny. The cover doesn’t lie. These four tough, denim and leather dressed New York guys could’ve been lifted straight outta ‘American Graffiti’, cruising down the main drag and looking for trouble at the soda shop while hanging round the jukebox. And it’s pretty much that kind of music they make; no nonsense rock rooted directly back to the 1950s with a modernized and radio friendly sound – and some nice parts of chiming Byrds-like guitars. Not bad at all, formerly Dictators’ and front man Scott Kempner is a great songwriter and assembled a more than decent cast of characters, including Eric ‘Roscoe’ Ambel, for The Del-Lords. Sometimes all we need is to rock out, have a good time and don’t worry too much. The sound of carefree times has no expiration date.

Danny & Dusty | The Lost Weekend | A&M 1985 |

When you’re 15-16, life’s at the crossroads. Your path is not yet set, there are choices to be made; sports, school, or well, smoking and drinking. Now, I’ll never blame Danny & Dusty for leading me down the wrong road, but those two fellas on the cover sure seems to have a good time! Who doesn’t wanna join in on their drunken choir? And Danny & Dusty sounds just like a couple friends having the time of their lives. It certainly helps when they happened to be Dan Stuart and Steve Wynn, joined by a fine group of likeminded ramblers from The Long Ryders and Green On Red/The Dream Syndicate. They dropped most of their gloomy credibility and pretensions outside and entered the bar with nothing but good intentions: to sing, drink, shoot stories, long on talk and short on cash, and drink some more. ‘One’s too many, and a hundred’s not enough’ as they say in the legendary movie The Lost Weekend (I watched it immediately after buying the album.) The result is loose and spontaneous, but not too sloppy, rather it’s rowdy, confident and has actually aged very well. The songs are great, from when the word is out until we knock on heavens door begging for hangover relief on Sunday. Chris Cacavas is perfect as the barroom pianist, Dan and Steve know how to tell stories about winners and losers in the shadow of the Hollywood neon glimmer. Lebowski might be the dude, but these guys, they were the real dudes.

The Cramps | Psychedelic Jungle | I.R.S. 1981 |

‘Primitive, that’s how I live.’ Lux Interior holler and howls all the way through ‘Psychedelic Jungle.’ The Cramps’ second album is onehelluva slow burning garbage crate digging bonanza of 1950s sleaze and dark shades, a wild, weird and wicked entry to a world of voodoo rockabilly, haunted garage rock and deranged punk. I discovered the band, as far as I remember, with a live version of “Sunglasses After Dark” played on radio, and was immediately hooked. I don’t play this too often though, must’ve been years since I was reminded to not eat stuff from the sidewalk

The Cynics: Rock’n’roll is a very jealous bitch

Pablo Gonzalez, Angel Kaplan, Gregg Kostelich and Michael Kastelic. The Cynics for 4-4

The Cynics ble dannet i Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania i 1983, og har holdt det gående mer eller mindre kontinuerlig siden den gang. Med ett bein i garasjerocken og det andre i en pøl med relaterte stilarter tilhører de en eksklusiv gruppe artister som The Cramps og Dead Moon: Standhaftige, rettroende og ikke minst sikre leverandører av pur, uforfalsket Rock. Stor R.

Sentralt i bandet står Gregg Kostelich og Michael Kastelic, førstnevnte gitarist, produsent og grunnlegger av det helt supre plateselskapet Get Hip (i tillegg til The Cynics, ansvarlig for utgivelser med blant andre A-Bones, Thee Headcoates, Gore Gore Girls, våre egne Kwyet Kings, Sloppy Seconds, Hellacopters og en drøss andre ujålete band). Vokalist Kastelic har vrengt lungene sine i tre tiår, mens rytmeseksjonen har derimot vært svært omskiftelig.

Det har ikke alltid vært like lett å bli en del av partnerskapet til Kostelich og Kastelic, forteller den omgjengelige vokalisten til meg:

– The rhythm section changes over the years are very frustrating! I guess Gregg and I are both very extreme personalities, so sometimes we just drive people nuts! I also think we’ve had some people who like the idea of being in a band but they are not really true musicians.

– Rock and roll can be a very sad and hard life sometimes and if you don’t have it in your soul, then you can’t hang for decades like we have. You find other things that take priority like families, love or real jobs. But rock’n’roll is a very jealous bitch and she won’t let anything or anyone be more important, she owns your soul. Adam and Nathan, the two brothers we have in the band playing bass and drums now, are real musicians, and live only to play. This makes them my favorites ever to play with.

Psychedelic lollipops & midnight special
Jeg ber Kastelic fortelle litt om bakgrunnen til hvordan han og Gregg startet det hele, og han kan berette om hvordan tilfeldigheter førte dem over til en viktig innflytelse: Blues Magoos:

– Gregg and I have had a very similar musical development over the years. We both have childhood memories of hearing 60’s stuff like the Stones & Paul Revere and The Raiders and especially The Blues Magoos’ Psychedelic Lollipop album. We both have that record in common big time. My grandfather was a policeman and they arrested someone who had stolen a bunch of records from a little radio station. After his trial the radio station had replaced the records so my grandfather gave the stolen booty to me. It was stuff like The Blues Magoos, The Foundations, and of course The Animals, and it really blew my mind after listening to Winnie the Pooh records until then.

– As we were children in the 70’s we of course were drawn to the Bowie/Stooges/Cooper scene. I was really into Roxy Music, Eno, Velvet Underground, John Cale, Bowie. I remember seeing The New York Dolls and The Sparks on some TV show called Rock Concert and the David Bowie 1984 Floor Show on some show called The Midnight Special when I was about 10. I had a feeling that there was something more important than music going on. This of course led us to end up in the 70’s Punk scene. We were both in lots of punk bands in the early 80’s and late 70’s. Unfortunately punk rock only really existed until 1978, so being totally disgusted that our beloved punk rock had been corporatized and homogenized, we went back to the earliest music we remembered. Well it was that primal 60’s stuff that really sounded more punk than anything! We weren’t the first to realize this, and we soon discovered there were bands like The Lyres and The Fleshtones who were doing this sound.

Revenge of the living
Dette soundet har The Cynics i stor grad holdt seg til siden de startet i 1983. Det har ikke medført den store kommersielle suksessen, men det er en skjebne Kastelich ar slått seg til ro med:

– I’ve spent my life in the world of ‘sex drugs and rock’n’roll’ but it was a decision that I made when I was just a child. Of course I had planned to be very rich and very famous, and that part of the plan never really worked out now did it? That started to become less and less important and now I’m actually grateful it never happened. If we had gotten money and fame I would probably be dead now.

Michael Kastelic har vært gjennom en ganske tøff periode. Det tok 8 år fra Get Our Way (1994) til den talende titulerte comebackplaten Living is the Best Revenge (2002). Hva skjedde egentlig?

– I find it really hard to believe. I was on drugs and a little jail time during that period. I also believe I had a nervous breakdown and was suicidal. It all seems like a dream now and in retrospect, it only felt like it was a few months, not years. At any rate there is no excuse and I cannot figure out why we don’t record more. We usually end up playing so much after a record comes out that recording a new one gets put aside…

Hvordan vil du beskrive deres hittil siste utgivelse som ble til i samarbeid med Tim Kerr?

– I really liked working with Tim Kerr. He has a fantastic attitude that puts you at ease, yet keeps you on your toes and trying your best. I think it’s a really great record. I really love the songs “Revenge”, “Making Deals”, and “I Got Time”. I also think the cover and layout are really outstanding.

– I still hope, in my mind though, that someday we can make a record that I will just love more than anybody else’s!! This could probably never happen because I can’t really look at my own work and be objective. I think I can feel it if a show is going well, but a record could be different at different times. Sometimes a record sounds great, and on a different day I don’t love it. Living is the Best Revenge is the best garage record I’ve heard in a while. It sounds best if you play it really loud and listen in a different room!!

Get hip, or get lost
– Personally, I’ve never been happier in my life. I think the band has a lot of really good fans who dig our music and that makes for really great tours and shows. I would much rather have a bunch of really cool people who know what the music is about, than to try to convert the world of assholes to garage rock. We still preach the good word, but remember, it’s Get Hip or Get Lost!!

Hvordan har bandet utviklet seg gjennom årene?

– I believe we are more focused now than in our early years. Older? Of course. Wiser? I dunno’ but I hope so. More Cynical? Maybe less cynical and more accepting of our fate. I think we’re more relaxed and comfortable in our own ugly skins, but that’s only natural. In most ways it’s still the same as the first show ever, every time we play I still get the same feeling. That feeling when Gregg’s guitar and my voice blend together to make this unique and thrilling sound. I’m really a fan of that perfect live show sound. It seems like we’re getting more of that magic lately than in some previous line-ups.

Som en av de opprinnelige garasjerockerne der ute, hva kan du si om dagens tilstand for genren?

– The state of garage rock today I think is very good. I realized this again when we put the band on MySpace and I see again how many young people are really into the sound and how many young bands are so good at it. There are of course always people who are trying to make garage rock into a commodity, and tell you that bad new wave like The Strokes is garage rock. But who cares? They can’t kill the punk spirit just by misrepresenting it. As long as there are snotty young brats, whether they have basements, or garages, or just make music alone in their rooms, then garage punk will live in the subterranean dark caves as it always has and always will. That’s where it belongs and the hip people know where to find it.

Hva kan publikum forvente av en konsert med The Cynics ?

– With Adam and Nathan in the band we like to do a straight forward ‘power set’, we call it. Just bang-bang-bang song after song without any breaks or me babbling. We try to do the songs that people like to dance to. You never know though, they can certainly play some of the ballads beautifully and we will try to throw in some different selections for each show. What can you always expect from The Cynics? The singer will be drunk and the guitar will be loud!

Kastelic kan også gi følgende eksakte beskrivelse av vårt land:

– Every time we have been to Norway it has been cold, expensive, delicious food and very beautiful. Beautiful people and beautiful scenes. The land, the air, the architecture, the fashions – I love it all! I know everyone in Norway knows how to dance and shake! I know the food is rich and filling! I know the liquor is very expensive!

Noen spesielle minner fra tidligere besøk?

– I remember going to the cool college radio station in Bergen in ’94, riding a train and seeing both moose, and the town of Hell, eating moose steak, playing in a fallout shelter, having my sinuses explode on a plane to Tromsø, hanging out with The Launderettes, Johan from Thee Mono Sapiens, Egon – the rock’n’roll mayor of Tromsø, how bad King Kahn’s body odor smelled in Moss, eating at a Chinese buffet in maybe Bergen again… In other words I have nothing but fond memories of Vikings and cavemen and cavewomen!

Sier Kastelic, som har hatt en nær-døden opplevelse også her:

– One time, we took a plane from Oslo to Bergen, and our tour manager & merch person took the van to the next place after Bergen. They almost died in a van accident in the ice & snow. If we were in the van we probably would be dead because all the backline crashed through the passenger area. So I know that Norway is lucky for us and the Nordic Gods approve!

Vi får håpe det går bra også denne gangen. Det er i hvert fall ingenting som tyder på at denne gjengen ikke gir alt når de nå igjen nærmer seg norske scener:

– As far as playing the punk garage in front of people, it’s something I can’t STOP doing. It’s an addiction worse than the smack. It is also very selfish on my part because I think I’m having a better time than the people in the audience!! Really, when I see people smiling and dancing it makes me so happy I want to cry. Sometimes I do cry…

Bjørn Hammershaug

Dette intervjuet ble først publisert i 2006.

Øyafestivalen 2006

Etter at Middelalderparken i Oslo igjen har falt til ro, er tiden kommet for etterpåklokskap og forsøksvis oppsummering. Øyafestivalen har blitt en fast tradisjon, en sikker publikumssuksess og står frem som et selvsikkert og solid arrangement på alle måter. I år var 12 000 mennesker innom portene hver dag, tredagerspassene gikk fort unna og ingen store skandaler er å hefte ved årets festival som i løpet av fire dager presenterte et tresifret antall artister av ymse slag.

Øyafestivalen befestet sin stilling som landets fremste store rockefestival. Bare Quart kan sidestilles i størrelse og programkvalitet, men der sørlendingene fokuserer mer på moderne rytmiske former i takt med utviklingen, spisser hovedstadens store festival i første rekke sin rockeprofil. Det skaper ikke nødvendigvis det mest progressive programmet – men jeg tror det er greit å ha en ting i bakhodet nå når tre-fire dager fullpakket med inntrykk skal festes til papiret: Øya er en rockefestival. Det er ikke stedet for å få med seg bredden i internasjonal hip hop, det er ikke en arena for glitch-entusiaster, ei heller rette plassen for etnisk visesang. Øya er først og fremst en rockefestival, men med vekt på musikalsk bredde som dekker mange avarter, historisk tyngde, med en ikke ubetydelig indie-profil og med et solid norsk fokus. Og viktigst av alt; de presenterer et program som tangerer de fleste andre her til lands. Det er sikkert mange grunner til det; solide folk i hele organisasjonen og en nærmest garantert utsolgt park hjelper sikkert på.

Selv om antall festivaler har økt kraftig her i landet de siste årene, er ikke nødvendigvis innholdet blitt så veldig mye fetere. Etter en heseblesende festivalsommer er inntrykket at det store flertall rundt om i bygd og by mest eksisterer på festivalens eget premiss: det er kult å arrangere festival og det er kult å gå på festival (med unntak av Hortens Roserock gikk de fleste riktig så bra også i år), og drives mer på dette enn som sultne bidrag satt i gang for å berike kulturnasjonen og sprenge musikalske grenser. Det er ikke nødvendigvis noe negativt i seg selv. En vellykket festival vil forhåpentligvis generere ytterligere musikkinteresse lokalt, stimulere de ulike musikkmiljøene og skape grobunn for gryende artistpoder.

Oss kritikere imellom
Programmet for Øya 06 var nok på papiret det beste noensinne. Noe flisespikk er det alltid mulig å henge seg opp i for penneknekter som oss, for eksempel at yndlingene i Pipettes ble ’gjemt bort’ på Rockefeller etter midnatt – de hadde vel vært ypperlige å se på ute en varm sommerdag? Av ulike årsaker havnet KILLL (hyggelig nok) øverst på plakaten sammen med Beck og Morrissey. Til tross for en velfungerende innpakning ble ikke deres integrerte lysshow på storscenen en tidlig ettermiddag like epileptisk som det de får til i en mørk klubb, og kanskje de kunne fått fremføre sitt sett etter mørkets frembrudd i en litt annen setting?

Det er også mulig å argumentere for en noe alderstung headliner-profil, med Beck, snart 50 år gamle Morrissey, The Fall (Mark E. Smith har rundet 50), The Cramps (Lux Interior er 64) og Yoko Ono (73) på topp. Men alle disse navnene er i seg selv såpass sterke og står for noe så sentralt innen hvert sitt felt, de fleste er også vitale kunstnerisk sett, at alderen ikke spiller så stor rolle. Øyafestivalen fungerer slik sett også ’oppdragende’ på nye generasjoner publikum, men en noe spissere vinkling mot nye bølger og med friske navn hadde ikke vært å forakte – sett fra mitt synspunkt.

Jeg synes også at artistene som opptrådde inne på ØyaKino virket å bli noe stemoderlig behandlet. Det stod blant annet ingen tidspunkter om disse i mitt hendige lommeprogram, noe som medførte at konserten med DEAF CENTER skammelig nok gikk rent i glemmeboken. Disse burde blitt satt opp i programmet. Det var også veldig leit at Amadou & Mariam fra Mali måtte avlyse. De hadde vært perfekte i parken, men det er nå slik som skjer. (Datarock stilte opp på kort varsel.)

Gamle ringrever
Av de gamle ringrevene synes jeg THE FALL sparket godt fra seg. Bygget opp rundt lange, nesten krautrock-lignende låter med motorisert trøkk serverte de en kompromissløs konsert med en sedvanlig tverr og gretten Mark E. Smith i front. Ikke direkte publikumsvennlig, men knallhardt og tøft var det.

THE CRAMPS leverte også mer enn godkjent, i et sett som var en nærmest tour de force gjennom en lang karriere. ”TV Set” og ”The Way I Walk” ble framført av en djevelsk blek Interior og en kjølig stoisk Poison Ivy – slik de har holdt det gående i over 30 år. Levende (?) legender, ingen legendarisk konsert, men med den fine blandingen av bizarro world og villstyrig rock’n’roll som de fleste kom for å se.

YOKO ONO er vel ikke akkurat kjent som noen typisk festivalartist, hennes platekarriere kjenner jeg kun overfladisk og det hun holdt på med der oppe på scenen var meg raskt totalt likegyldig. Hennes rallende skrik fulgte meg som vonde drømmer flere netter etterpå, og avslutningen ”Give Peace A Chance” ga mer en følelse av å bli bønnhørt enn lyst til å synge allsang.

MORRISSEY og Oscar Wilde var derimot langt hyggeligere kompaniskap. Den sveisne briten var like dandy som alltid, og briljerte til tider under et sett som hyggelig nok ikke bare bestod av gamle Smiths-låter, men også nyere materiale. Det vitner om en artist som fortsatt er ute etter å fornye seg som kunstner, og selv om The Smiths og Morrissey aldri har vært min kopp te, så ble jeg nesten sjarmert av denne bitende bitre briten.

BECK hadde enten store kroppslige plager (det gikk rykter om ryggtrøbbel) eller så hadde han tankene langt borte i scientologi-land. Han var stiv som en stokk under konserten, noe som også satte et visst preg på hele utførelsen. Det ble noe distansert over dette, men låter som ”Loser” og ”Devil’s Haircut” (for et åpningspar!), et kompakt band og ikke minst minneverdige dukkefilm-seanser bidro til å minne om at han fremdeles rager et stykke over de fleste andre når det gjelder elegant stilmiks og genreblandende lekenhet. Folk, funk og hip hop og elektronika – denne mr. cool triller det ut som det mest naturlige i verden, selv om jeg forlot ham midtveis for heller å se Stavanger-bandet NOXAGT.

I sum så leverte de internasjonale trekkplastrene som forventet, selv om ingen av konsertene direkte risset seg inn i mitt hode med store bokstaver for evigheten. Da vil jeg nok ikke overraskende vende blikket mot de to mindre scenene. En ting er at dette var åsted for de mest spennende bandene, en annen er den intimiteten særlig lille Vika-scene kan by på og som jeg synes er langt å foretrekke når man skal oppleve levende musikk.

Ikke fullt så gamle ringrever
For å ta for oss de internasjonale artistene først, og like gjerne de tre beste konsertene under hele festivalen:

1. LES SAVY FAV
Endelig skulle man få oppleve New York-bandet og deres notorisk berømte sceneshow, anført av spinnville Tim Harrington. Han startet med å stikke en pistol i munnen og dra sverd, løp mer ute blant publikum enn han var oppe på scenen og avrundet med å hoppe i dammen iført en ekkel, tettsittende drakt. Han holdt konstant liv i massene, men konserten hadde vært like bra (om enn på langt nær så minneverdig) om han hadde stått med ryggen til og gjemt seg bak trommisen. Les Saves levde opp til navnet sitt som ’de ville beistene’ med en smittende konsert bygget på dansbar punk og alternativ rock (tenk Fugazi, Pixies) der über-fengende ”Yawn Yawn Yawn” bare var ett av høydepunktene. Deres konsert var den som virkelig fikk meg i humør, i hvert fall, og denne går rett inn i Øyas historiebøker. Les Savy Fav minner ikke minst om hvor viktig det er med band som gir noe av seg selv, også på festivaler, og som gir publikum følelsen av å være med på noe unikt (selv om deres opptreden som sagt er velkjent). Ofte bærer festivalkonserter, særlig hos de mer etablerte artistene, litt for mye preg av rutine.

2. HIGH ON FIRE
Drøyere riff skal man lete lenge etter. Den amerikanske power-trioen ga dette begrepet nytt innhold der de kvestet Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Slayer og jamvel Metallica på særdeles voldsomt vis. Anfører Matt Pike har sin bakgrunn i kongebandet Sleep, og deres doom-styrke kunne også høres i slagene mellom svartmetall, hardcore og punk. En energiutladning av det sjeldne!

3. BLACK MOUNTAIN
I motsetning til en tidligere konsert jeg så med Black Mountain i England i år, spilte Vancouvers fineste et stort antall nye låter på Øya – og de virket meget bra der de snek seg mellom livefavoritter som ”Don’t Run Your Hearts Around” og ”No Hits”. Black Mountain har funnet en herlig nisje mellom halvveis frittgående jammer og fengende sirupsrock som det er vanskelig å ikke la seg forføre av.

Kudos må også gå til det joviale Seattle-bandet BAND OF HORSES, hvis debutplate av året er et aldri så lite drops. Et sted på den gylne landeveien, mellom Neil Young, The Shins og My Morning Jacket leverte den godslige og utvidede gjengen en nydelig festivalstund med semi-hiten «The Funeral» som lite høydepunkt. De ble aldri trollbindende, og tilhører kategorien band som faktisk er like bra på plate – men det er altså riktig så fint, ikke minst takket være Ben Bridewells vidåpne vidvinkel-vokal.

Den største positive overraskelsen for mitt vedkommende var likevel Texas-bandet MIDLAKE. Også de kunne sin Neil Young, men da mer i betydning med Crosby, Stills & Nash. Særs sommerlig og vennlig og et perfekt band å nye i solen utendørs en varm ettermiddag. Milde vokalharmonier og lette, lekre melodier kunne de by på. Det var heller ikke vanskelig å få opp pulsen under gigen til LIARS, som på sitt beste hørtes ut som Sonic Youth i dissonant parring med Talking Heads. Dessverre forsvant konserten til SPANK ROCK i ett av mange regnskyll den første dagen – det var veldig synd, for det hørtes ut som både de og publikum koste seg veldig på den lille scenen.

Selv om ikke Øya forsøker å være først ute med de nye navnene, så får oppsummeringen være at de gjør en god jobb med de mellomstore utenlandske navnene, uten å bringe frem de helt store overraskelsene.

Rødt, hvitt, blått
Øyafestivalen jobber gledelig aktivt for å holde det norske fokuset i hevd, og de strever nok litt med å finne navn som særlig kan fylle den største scenen. Årets norske trekkplaster var for mange DUMDUM BOYS, som i 2006 omtrent er like spennende som en boks trøndersodd. Men de tilhører den lille eksklusive gruppen artister her i landet som klarer nettopp å trekke masse folk og fungerer i stort format. Men det er vel litt tankevekkende at under årets festivaler i Norge er det nettopp navn som Raga Rockers, Seigmen og DumDum som troner på topp?

Det drives et solid vekstarbeid i underskogen av norsk rock, med for eksempel by:Larm og Zoom som to viktige arrangementer. Øyafestivalens kanskje viktigste funksjon for norsk musikkliv er dens fokus på nettopp artister som kommer herfra og som med dette får en glimrende anledning til å presentere seg både for et stort publikum, og ikke minst et voksende internasjonalt presseoppbud. Øya vil nok for mange av de ’unge, sultne’ være et foreløpig høydepunkt i karrieren, så får vi se hvor mange som klatrer videre opp på karrierestigen. For det er tynnere med artister i midtsjiktet og (naturlig nok) bare noen ytterst få som er store nok til å fungere som et slags norsk trekkplaster-alibi. Uten å si noe stygt om DumDum Boys, og de underholdt sikkert sine fans på solid vis, det er ikke et navn som akkurat skriker fornyelse og sprengkraft.

Artig for både små og store var sikkert konserten med KNUTSEN & LUDVIGSEN, som startet ukristelig tidlig for de av oss som holdt ut litt kvelden i forveien. Deres opptreden tjente vel mest som en slags nostalgisk honnør og familiært trekkplaster for å få folk tidlig ned på området. Jeg fant det litt moro at de satte strålende LOW FREQUENCY IN STEREO og terrorbandet KILLL umiddelbart etter den kosekonserten.
Fredagskonserten med MOTORPSYCHO bør også bemerkes, særlig den farlig sterke åpningen med en nær halvtime mye basert på ”The Wheel”, i en konsert som beveget seg fra tung psykedelisk prog over til lettere mer poporienterte låter (”Hey Jane”, ”Devil Dog”) som aldri løftet seg til de helt store høyder.

Gjennomgangsartisten i år var Duplex-kollektivet, som i tre ulike sammenhenger befant seg på hovedscenen. Det ble brutalt oppgulp med THE CUMSHOTS, Sabbath vs. Ibsen av BLACK DEBBATH og hvitevare-ramponering med HURRA TORPEDO. Av disse tre er det The Cumshots som har mest å fare med musikalsk.

En artist som forlengst har passert småscenen er MARIT LARSEN. Med et overraskende sjarmerende album bak seg, og et lag av kompetente musikere med seg (bl.a David Wallumrød og Thom Hell) presterte hun en meget skuffende konsert. Noe av grunnen kunne være den tamme lyden så mange musikere fikk ut av seg, men det var noe reservert og distansert over låtene til Larsen, noe ikke engang hennes kvitrende innspill mellom låtene kunne endre på. På langt nær så dårlig som fjorårets Annie-katastrofe, bare veldig kjedelig. Og akkurat som platen er overraskende bra, ble denne konserten en overraskende nedtur.

Av de ferskere artistene fra årets festival, vil jeg framheve GRAND ISLAND og THE CHEATERS, uten å ha sett for eksempel Adjagas, The Apple Falls, Magnus Hængsle, 120 Days eller Heroes & Zeros. Plateaktuelle Grand Island har allerede fått rikelig med blest for sin spretne ’punkgrass’, og selv om de blir i overkant masete til tider så er det unektelig noe friskt over denne gjengen. Det gjelder også for The Cheaters. Det unge Tønsberg-bandet har både image, energi og til og med catchy låter som de sikkert vil utvikle ytterligere fremover. Juksemakerne er heller ikke ute etter å omskrive rockehistorien med store bokstaver, og spiller en ganske konservativ form for garasjerock – men med et glimt i øyet og nevnte energi som også smitter godt over til publikum. En vokalist som roper ’Heia Eik’ kan man ikke bli i dårlig humør av!

Om Øya ikke akkurat omfavner eksperimentell musikk, så er det gledelig at de finner rom for et band som NOXAGT, som på langt nær har fått den oppmerksomheten de fortjener. Makttrioen fra sør serverte som vanlig et kontant og knallhardt sett bygget rundt Anders Hanas frie gitarspill og de pumpende rytmene fra bassist Kjetil D. Brandsdal og trommis Kyvik. Hana fyller godt ut skoene til bratsjist Nils Erga, ikke minst i en slik livesetting. Plassert på den minste scenen samtidig med Beck var det nok likevel mange som gikk glipp av Noxagt.

Øya som aldri sover
ØyaNatt foregikk utover natten på Rockefeller og John Dee, med THE WRENS som naturlig høydepunkt. Programmet her var også relativt sterkt, med blant andre Tralala fra New York, dEUS og Diamond Nights på plakaten. Sammen med konseptet KlubbØya som omfavner hele byen betyr det at Øya har blitt en nær komplett og betydningsfull festival for hovedstaden. Når den siste festivalgjenger lukker døra bak seg, åpner alle klubbene igjen for en lang høst og vinter. Vi får håpe at publikum ikke har blitt mettet i løpet av sommeren og at alle festivalene snarere har økt interessen for å oppleve levende musikk gjennom hele året – der den bør oppleves: På klubbene.

Bjørn Hammershaug
Opprinnelig publisert i august 2006

The Cramps: Psychedelic Jungle (I.R.S., 1981)

En av de bedre historier i kategorien store musikkopplevelser er signert Sonic Youths Thurston Moore. Som tenåring dro han og en kompis ned til New York City og klubben Max’s Kansas City for å smake på rockelivet for første gang. De hadde ingen anelse om hvem som spilte denne kvelden, men når den var omme skulle livet aldri mer bli det samme for unge Moore. Utkommet for jyplingene ble en grei opptreden fra et ukjent Brooklyn-band og en mildt sagt minneverdig seanse med Suicide (som er en lengre historie i seg selv). Mellom disse to spilte The Cramps en sine aller første New York-konserter. Det var en oppvisning i primitiv cool psychobilly-punk og en helt særegen sceneopptreden som brant seg inn i minnet til Thurston Moore.

Året var 1976, og Ohio-kvartetten som da nylig hadde rullet inn i New Yorks gater for godt bestod av vokalist Lux Interior, femme fatale Posion Ivy og Bryan Gregory på gitar og Nick Knox bak trommene. I løpet av sine første hektiske år serverte The Cramps en serie plater som alle tilhører historiebøkene: Singlesamleren Gravest Hits (1979), debuten Songs The Lord Taught Us (1980) og samlingene Off The Bone (83) og Bad Music For Bad People (84). Men den kanskje aller beste rene studioplaten er deres andre; Psychedelic Jungle fra 1981.

På dette tidspunktet var Gregory ute av bandet, og ex-Gun Club Kid Congo Powers hadde steppet inn og besørget mer klasse over gitarspillet på en plate der produksjonen også er betydelig oppryddet i forhold til den Alex Chilton-produserte debuten. Psychedelic Jungle består av 50/50 mer eller mindre obskure coverlåter (i hvert fall for oss med bare overflatekunnskap til tiårets mer eksentriske låtskrivere) og et knippe egenkomponerte godbiter (”Caveman”, ”The Natives Are Restless”, ”Don’t Eat Stuff Off The Sidewalk”).

Frontfigurene Interior og Ivy er to av rockens weirdeste; som et vrengbilde av Elvis Presley og en klassisk pin-up fra 50-tallet, en duo som hemningsløst koker sitt heksebrygg på thrash-kultur; råtne b-filmer, voodoo-fascinasjon, surf, sci-fi, vill rock’n’roll og en porsjon ren svart magi. Resultatet ble en primitiv og hemningsløs ferd gjennom bakgatene av Amerikas subkulturer. Som et soundtrack til John Waters’ tidlige filmer og en hyllest til obskure rockabilly/rock’n’roll-pionerer skapte de seig, skummel og rå psychobilly som fikk skikkelige folk til å lukke dørene under Halloween og kikke under sengen etter monstre når de gikk til køys.

Lærkledde Lux stønner, hulker og hoier seg gjennom killerlåter som ”Greenfuz”, ”Goo Goo Muck” og ”Caveman”. Posion og Congo smelter sammen i klassiske riff, reverb og fuzz, mens Knox forsøker å binde det hele sammen bak jungeltrommene, der det mer tilbakelente tempoet kontra debuten ytterligere underbygger en litt mørk, småguffen stemning. The Cramps er lik sin fascinasjon for kultfenomener blitt et selv, et band som kanskje falt mellom mange stoler og aldri ble tatt helt på alvor. Det er i så fall en sterk undervurdering. De føyer seg inn i en lang og rik amerikansk (veldig amerikansk) tradisjon som de har ivaretatt og fornyet lik få andre.

For moro skyld tørket jeg støv av min gamle Rolling Stone Record Guide, som i sin samtid mente om Psychedelic Jungle at «the passionate edge was gone, some of the tension between artiness and trashiness was missing…» og de spekulerer om de vil «fade away, after moments of genius…» Vel, på sistnevnte punkt tok de i hvert fall skammelig feil. Snart et kvart århundre senere står Interior & Ivy blant trekkplastrene på Øyafestivalen i Oslo. Nå nærmest som gudfedre innen en genre de aldri har sluttet å dyrke på det varmeste.

Og Thurston Moore? Etter at Suicide skremte vannet av ham stakk han ut av byen og reiste nordover – og lovte seg selv at han skulle dra tilbake hver helg senere. The Cramps har også holdt på ufortrødent siden, selv om kvaliteten på utgivelsene deres i beste fall har vært noe ujevn siden A Date With Elvis for snart 20 år siden.
Bjørn Hammershaug

Første gang publisert 08.08.06 i forbindelse med The Cramps’ Øyakonsert.