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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On June 13, 1978 the then freshly formed New York alternative psychobilly group the Cramps performed a special free benefit concert for the inmates at the Napa State Mental Hospital in California. They played a double bill with the San Francisco punk outfit the Mutants. The scruffy, rickety, washed-out hand-held black and white 20 minute short film of this remarkably wacked event is every bit as brazen and gut-busting as one could possibly hope. Lead singer Lux Interior, radiating serious gonzo Iggy Pop-style vibes, prances about on stage and spasmodically jerks about this way and that way while doing all these lewd pelvis-thrusting, hip-gyrating, body rocking back and forth sub-Elvis Presley moves. Lux shrieks such choice lowdown gritty trash rock milestones as "Mystery Plane," "The Way I Walk (Is Just the Way I Walk)," "What's Behind the Mask," "Domino," "Human Fly," and "TV Set" with appropriately wild and uninhibited go-for-it aplomb. Moreover, Lux also treats the asylum inmates as equals, which gives this gloriously loopy picture a certain strangely moving, albeit off-center pathos and thus makes the whole show a truly singular display of compassion for the criminally insane. The mental patients are a neatly varied bunch: some are severely doped up and thus totally indifferent, others lethargically dance to the music, one nutty blonde lady excitedly hops up and down through, a heavyset brunette babe joins Lux on hollering out a few numbers, and a big, hulking black guy in a cowboy hat rushes on stage and hugs Lux while he's in the middle of howling a tune called "Love Me" (Lux actually stares one distaff inmate straight in the eyes while crooning this song!). Lux wins over the crowd early on by making this thoughtful exclamation: "Somebody told me you people were crazy. But I'm not so sure about that. You people seem alright to me." Guitarist Poison Ivy concludes the festivities by sneering, "Eat s**t and die!" A superbly screwy, occasionally touching, and often sidesplitting one-of-a-kind document.
The Cramps are a great act. Really, I promise. Unfortunately you could
never tell it from this release.
To it's credit, it is truly epitomizes the spirit of punk. A roughly shot video, audience participation at all-time high and Lux Interior giving it his best, howling, snarling and doing his best to maintain control (but simultaneously indulging) an audience that simply will not give it.
Firstly, it is way too short. At under 20 minutes of actual performance time, and quality of audio and video barely tolerable, 19.95 is way too much. Even Amazon's 17.99 isn't enough of an improvement. I could see maybe paying 9.99.
Now the concept is hilarious, and, as far as that goes, the video lives up to expectations. Lux frequently loses control of his microphone & Bryan Gregory seems to have a couple of satellite loons who are enjoying themselves. Poison Ivy and the drummer seem to get unfairly neglected (though it looks like the bass drum was kicked in before the show even started). As said, the entire band performs with incredible aplomb in spite of the numerous interferences. If you like the Cramps style before, you'll love it now.
But ultimately the video looses out due to quality of recording and far too short run time. Maybe if they had included the Mutants performance. As it is, the video provides some excerpts from what am I assuming are other punk video releases.
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