Review Summary: An interesting, enjoyable album that feels somewhat dated, but is carried by an infectious vocal performance
Having settled into a nice gothic niche in the 1980's, The Cramps have experienced something of a minor resurgence due to their inclusion in one of the widely-shared sequences from Netflix's smash hit adaptation of The Addam's Family's own daughter, Wednesday. Inspired by the freeform, careless attitude of the dance sequence from that show, millions have flocked to listen to the original recording of the song "Goo Goo Muck," and NME reported a 50-fold increase in streaming over a five-day period. Having enjoyed that song, my curiosity was piqued, and so I entered the weird and wonderful world of 1981's 'Psychadelic Jungle,' discovering that half of the songs are cover recordings (including "Goo Goo Muck") and that the album itself is rather good.
The cover songs are all interesting renditions of garage rock and rockabilly acts that The Cramps respected, with "Green Fuz" opening the album strongly and "Goo Goo Muck" being an unintentional cornerstone that really stands out here. The bizarre energy and eerie vocal performance of Lux Interior brings new life to Ronnie Cook's original, infusing an atmosphere that matches lyrics such as 'i'm the night head hunter looking for some head.' The rumbling bassline throughout and restrained drumming mix well with the soothing guitar solo. "Primitive" is another highlight of the cover songs, as is the closing track "Green Door," which has a rock and roll swing to it that gives an unexpected conclusion.
The original songs are where the band really fleshes the sound out, however, with "Caveman" opening with a brooding tempo and some really creepy initial vocal lines in the first few seconds that sets a particularly unnerving mood. Poison Ivy Rorschach and Kid Congo Powers experiment with some off-kilter guitar lines in the bridge, including a quasi-solo that matches the quirky nature of the song as a whole perfectly. "Under The Wires" is probably my favorite original track here, from it's theatrical declarations of 'don't hang up,' to the lower pitch of the lines that ensue. Lux Interior is a really charismatic vocalist, injecting enthusiasm and a clear idea of the Rocky Horror Picture-style melodrama into every single track, and it is here he is at his best.
The Cramps' 'Psychadelic Jungle' is as off-the-wall as its title would suggest, with the cover songs and original tracks blending together into a really cohesive and fun album. It feels a little dated, and there are certainly better efforts out there to appease fans of this style of music - anything from Misfits, for starters - but the gothic punk crossover sound, mixed with rock and roll just works.