“Again, like the Surrealists, anything you run across is actually beautiful; within a single city block, you find miraculous things. It’s a good planet — and good things can happen.”
– Lux Interior
I like this quote, not because it is a well-crafted aphorism, but because of its babbling exuberance – it conveys a rare kind of enthusiasm. For me it conjures an image of Lux Interior and Poison Ivy Rorschach, prime movers of ‘psychobilly’ band the Cramps, wandering the city like harmlessly monstrous goth-burlesque flâneurs, stumbling upon the strange artefacts of trash culture that fuelled the lurching monster of their music.
Revisiting the Cramps’ twisted world has been sad, as Lux Interior died earlier this year. It seems like a blink of an eye since I was reading a review of ‘Gravest Hits’ in the NME (now changed beyond recognition), getting a 26 bus (route now largely that of the 1/1a) into Brighton, buying the record from the Attrix shop (long since closed) managed by Rick from the Parrots (sadly no longer with us).
Everything persists – at least in electric ghost form – I could probably download the Cramps’ entire catalogue in less time than it took to walk to the bus stop. Curiosities such as their performance at the California State Mental Hospital in Napa (lovingly recreated as the movie File Under Sacred Music) are there on YouTube, to be turned on like a tap.
And at the same time nothing remains – my memories of seeing the band live will fade as I do, feedback fading into the background hum of amps on an empty stage.
For a long time, I haven’t had their music as a soundtrack. Perhaps my existence as an amiable suburbanite and vaguely serious professional dude hasn’t needed such a maniacal undertow.
I suppose their celebration of pharmaceuticals falls into the ‘do not try this at home’ category… though saying that, I take drugs very day – the kind that keep my middle-aged life in comfortable stasis. Perhaps I should invoke the Cramps as an accompaniment to my ingestion of chemicals: listen to Drug Train while I spray ‘metered actuations’ of mometasone furoate up my nose to pacify my sinuses (‘Whoo! Whoo!’); Bop Pills while I swallow the Lansoprazole capsules that keep stomach acid from overcoming my oesophagus (‘And man when they hit me, I landed in the middle of the floor’); ‘Strychnine’ while I glug cod liver oil to lubricate my perpetually-aching hip (‘You may think it’s funny, That I like this stuff, But once you’ve tried it, You can’t get enough’.)
I gather that the Cramps struggled with an (understandable) view of them as a comedy band. But they took their trash seriously, pursuing their vision with a relentless intent and utter conviction.
All of this reminds me of Susan Sontag’s famous essay on Camp sensibility, where she talks of
“the exaggerated, the “off,” of things-being-what-they-are-not…Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It’s not a lamp, but a “lamp”; not a woman, but a “woman.” To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater…The ultimate Camp statement: it’s good because it’s awful . . .”
Halloween display in Netherton bakers
I think [insert attempt to relate post to main theme of blog] my walk is this kind of camp. Not that I’m mincing my way to Brighton (despite the aforementioned hip problem); rather that I’m paying attention to the “off” stuff along the way (whilst remembering at all times the Cramps safety announcement ‘Don’t Eat Stuff Of the Sidewalk’). Perhaps way back in the olden days I learned something deadly serious from them – marginal, neglected things can be beautiful: pointless creations can be pursued with single-minded dedication: and most importantly
“Life is short. And filled with stuff.”
– New Kind of Kick