Founded in California in the early 1970s before relocating to New York and becoming part of the CBGB’s scene, The Cramps were one of the pioneering American punk bands, though one with a style outside of the mainstream even within scene. Their sound is garage lo-fi and they were probably the first band to describe themselves as “psychobilly,” which is probably as good a label as any to put on their music.
Bad Music for Bad People came out in 1984 and was a compilation of previously released material, basically a “F You” and a money grab by label I.R.S. following the band parted ways with them. That being said, it’s still a pretty good collection of the band’s early material, so for someone like me who doesn’t have any of their albums it’s not a bad starting point. I was pretty happy to find this off-condition copy the same day it came into my local used vinyl shop, and at $2.50 I knew I couldn’t go wrong.
There’s some fairly wild stuff on here and the band does a good job in keeping a live feel to everything. Nothing is fancy, and it’s all far from perfect, but that’s where it’s character comes from – The Cramps sound like a band who would be a lot of fun to see in a small bar after a bunch of PBR pounders. Someplace with sticky floors, cracked and split vinyl barstools, and the smell of stale beer, bleach, and cigarettes in the air. The kind of place where you probably hose down the floors at the end of the night. It’s rockabilly surf punk, baby, so let’s have some fun!
Lux Interior’s voice is the key to The Cramps sound. Sure, the music is good; but it’s Interior’s whooping and wailing and twangy delivery that creates the kooky vibe on these songs. Nearly half the tracks on Bad Music for Bad People are covers, like Mel Robbins’ 1959 country hit “Save It” that Interior makes into something totally different with his spin on the vocals, taking what was once a straight forward song and twisting it into an oddity. Of the originals I’m particularly partial to “Garbageman,” the heaviest and most driving song on the record with it’s relentless pace and echoing vocals. “New Kind of Kick” is badass as well with it’s desperate singing in search of some new kind of kick, some new way to get wasted.
Overall two thumbs up for Bad Music for Bad People. This is a solid collection of songs and The Cramps have a sound that works well both when you want to just have something on at low volume in the background and also when you want to crank it up and get after it.