Before the desperados of punk rock were able to become themselves, Songs The Lord Taught Us takes some inspiration from the Link Wray’s and the early surf foundations to become the beauty that was the black roses known as The Cramps.
Never taking a stance on being from a certain time period, the true nature of The Cramps is their werewolf-esque nature that can shift at any moment. For certain periods they are more direct to a punk line, but usually and especially on Songs The Lord Taught Us; the band’s inspiration from those 50s and 60s forces of guttural guitar bleeds into the 13 tracks.
The opening piece “TV Set” is a horror show with these psychotic tribal drums from Nick Knox while Poison Ivy Rorschach and Bryan Gregory on guitars dissect the audience up like an autopsy. The harsh strumming coincides with Knox’s pounding. The tension grows and gives vocalist Lux Interior these Ed Gein motives with his lyrics.
Describing in grim detail, “Oh baby I see you in my TV set, yeah baby, I see you in my TV set. I cut your head off and put it in my TV set. I use your eyeballs for dials on my TV set.” As the track begins to rip wider and wider, The Cramps become this force of fearful but immaculately entertaining movement.
Like a conglomerate mad surgeon, they transition to “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” three tracks later and become entirely different animals. Instead of being a faster, more tribal ensemble. The Cramps become a sluggish but still maneuverable beast. Tracks like “I Was A Teenage Werewolf” make Songs The Lord Taught Us a diverse display that can border between the desert of sound and also the frantic styling of rockabilly undertones.
Especially on the transition for the following track “Sunglasses After Dark” that mixes walls of noise and eventual reprieves. Tipping the hat directly to Link Wray in a less than subtle nod, The Cramps are ferocious here. “Sunglasses After Dark” is a great track to stomp along to while Lux Interior describes the danger of sundown.
He illustrates, “Listen to this, went out last Saturday night. Got myself in a knife fight, everybody got caught including me, cause not one of us cats could see.” While the showdown of strums hits in the backing, Interior continues on, “We had on S-A-D, that’s right… Sunglasses after dark! They’re so sharp. Sunglasses after dark, it’s so simple.”
Another similar piece is “Strychnine” which develops one of the strongest instrumentals on Songs The Lord Taught Us. A real city slicker in terms of performance, “Strychnine” is flashy and catches the eyes immediately like a 100-foot neon sign. While the audience stares in wonder, The Cramps slide through the crowd and make the audience a target.
While never truly worried about the danger behind the speakers, The Cramps truly are a threat. Sonically they entice with catchy instrumentation and lyrics that could fit an outlaw or a teenager from mars.