Cramps' Epitaph LP Offers Them New Life

Time has not mellowed the Cramps, according to guitarist Poison Ivy.

It has only made the shockabilly band more daring musically.

"We just keep getting more out on a limb the longer we're on earth," said the 43-year-old Ivy. "We can't help it."

But when the 20-year veteran rockers' new album Big Beat from Badsville shows up in record stores next month with the Epitaph Records logo on it, fans are likely to wonder why this coupling hadn't taken place sooner.

What could be more fitting, afterall, than to stamp an album by rock's finest horror show band with Epitaph's trademark gravestone?

More significant is that the union pairs the Cramps with the most thriving imprint in modern punk rock.

The alliance has certainly invigorated the band. Lux Interior, 49,

said that he thinks Big Beat from Badsville is the best album the Cramps have ever made and, his wife, Rorschach, agreed. "Only the Cramps do what we do on this album," she said.

Big Beat from Badsville does contain some of the most passionate cuts

the band has recorded since forming in New York 22 years ago. The

self-produced album finds the Cramps returning to their sex-obsessed

rockabilly roots. Along with skins man Harry Drumdini and bass player Slim

Chance, Interior and Ivy offer up 14 emotionally rendered, manic cuts such

as "Hypno Sex Ray" and "Burn She-Devil, Burn." The band even pays homage

to their old compatriots from the East Village club CBGBs with the Ramonesesque-titled ode "Sheena's In a Goth Gang."

"It Thing Hard-On," a boastful tune from a "git gone hotshot," is more

typical of the Cramps' raucous energy. "That's just over the top,

screaming, full speed ahead rock 'n' roll," Interior said. Meanwhile,

"Haulass Hyena" envisions a Big Daddy Roth-styled street rod of the future.

"It takes your breath away," said the singer proudly. "It careens all

over the place."

Even during lean recording years, the Cramps have sustained their loyal

following and attracted new listeners with ravishing live sets. But when it comes to songwriting, Interior and Ivy said they remove themselves from the public entirely. "We close ourselves off to the outside world when we start doing an album, and that's the end of that. We don't call people back or anything. That just has to be the way we do it. I hear of people that go out on tour and write songs, but we could never do that. We have to sit here and play records, think, and wake up in the middle of the night and write something down. We get up the next morning and start. We just don't do anything else."

The band will be back out on the road this fall and Ivy is confident that the

band's fans will recognize Big Beat from Badsville as ideal fuel for

powering rabid live shows. [Tues., Aug. 26, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]