PLASTIC FANTASTIC

Contributing Editor Amorosi blows the dust off his stylus
and spins the vinyl platters you can’t live without.

 

BY A.D. AMOROSI

 

The column is not only named after
my favorite Jefferson Airplane tune (“Plastic Fantastic Lover”) but my
childhood shopping haunt in Bryn Mawr, PA, where I met the likes of DEVO, B-52s
and their New Wave ilk at the start of their careers. One of the bands that
stopped by that record store is also the first highlight of this first column: The Cramps.

 

     The beat look of the early Cramps is
legendary. Circa 1977, the grimy primal rockabilly outfit (for the record, my
fave ever band) wasn’t only highlighted by Hell’s Sonny & Cher – high-haired
singer Lux Interior and curly hard guitarist Poison Ivy – but also by Bryan Gregory,
the pock-marked second guitarist whose guttural plunk made a room shake with
its tongue-lashing twang. That’s the sound of The Cramps – File Under Sacred Music: Early Singles 1978-1981 (Munster). Housed in a
tiny frame with the band’s C-movie horror font in slime green, the ten 7-inch
45s (in accurately replicated sleeves: single colors and cheap paper were
“Surfin’ Bird”/”The Way I Walk” and “Human Fly”/”Domino”) shudder and thud as
they did originally, only with ace remastering, so to sound shockingly clear
and cutting without losing the dusted crustiness of the originals. The whole
collection is a blank unholy mess – that’s a compliment. By the time you get to
“Goo Goo Muck”/”She Said” with guitarist Kid Congo Powers steering their clammy
raunchiness to new glam-voodoo heights, the collection becomes operatic.

 

 

 

 

      Surely The Cramps were an inspiration to a
rickety young Jack White. In
anticipation of his debut solo album Blunderbuss,
he dropped a 45 of pop-corrosion, “Love Interruption”/”Machine
Gun Silhouette,” on his Third Man Records amongst a slew of grandly arcane
Howling Wolf-y, rockabilly sides during the label’s last rush of vinyl
goodness. “Seasick Steve” Wold, the Oakland dirty folk busker
who plays highly-personalized guitars, unleashed a fiddle-friendly
banger “Write Me A Few Lines”/”Levee Camp Blues” where he
hoots about his days jobs and night-long sloppiness. Third Man signing and
odd-slob pop quartet Pujol hurl the
churlish “Black Rabbit”/”Too Safe” through White’s window. Nashville’s JEFF the Brotherhood take a page from
The Cramps’ garage night sweats notebook and crumb out to the muddied
psychedelia of “Whatever I Want”/”Everything I Need.” Then there’s thespian John C. Reilly whose musical snot-shots
are far from a Hollywood star’s vanity or its
projects. The acoustic country blues six-stringer/singer joins up with Tom Brosseau (same job description) and drummer White for the close-harmony
C&W “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar”/”Lonesome Yodel Blues
2” that’s as sweet and strange as lavender honey.

 

 

 

 

   
Speaking of flowery aroma, Reilly does the same slanging, twanging and
strangling on the springy “I’ll Be There if You Ever Want”/”I’m Making Plans”
as Becky & John with Lavender Diamond’s cooing chanteuse Becky Stark. I hope Reilly never loses his Hollywood star, but if
it the directors stop calling, he’s got a friend in White whose own barking
two-man traditionalism, the curl and burl of The White Stripes, is celebrated in 12 inch vinyl form in Live in Mississippi. The 2-LP set is 180
gram black gold and the ruggedest of the Stripes’ live recordings from July
2007, with Meg White’s thud in full flush on the worrisome wonk of “Death
Letter” and the weirdly tender “I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother’s
Heart.” I love Blunderbuss, but I
sure miss Meg.

 

 

This article originally appeared in BLURT #12.

Leave a Reply