“We’ll never get to see Luxy!” I hear as I leave the dungeon-esque Rebellion in Manchester tonight.
Having just witnessed a Teenage Werewolves show, a loving tribute to the psychobilly/goth legends, The Cramps, I agree. We will not see Lux Interior again, but we do have Jack Atlantis, who channels the spirit of the much-missed frontman with almost the same amount of manic fervour as the original.
Find the band online here: https://teenagewerewolves.bandcamp.com.
I approached this gig with some apprehension, not necessarily being a great fan of the tribute band, but having not seen The Cramps live (one of my greatest regrets in life), I had heard only good things about this act, so treated myself. I wasn’t disappointed.
The venue for a start is perfect for tonight, a purposefully fashioned hellhole that literally drips with the spirit of those underground clubs I lived for in the ’80s. The low-level stage is thronged with middle-aged goths and psychobillies, with some impressive quiffs still intact. I am marvelling at the array of Cramps tee-shirts, some are magnificent and could well be added to my collection very soon.
She’s in Bauhaus are already on stage and I wish I had not gotten lost on the way and witnessed their whole show. I catch “She’s in Parties” and their frankly brilliant version of Ziggy Stardust, delivered with the dark charm of Pete Murphy but with added humour between songs.
When Teenage Werewolves take to the stage, they are strangely familiar; in fact, they are the same band as She’s in Bauhaus, with just a costume change and an added bassist to separate them.
I can’t lie; The Cramps are one of my very favourite bands, so I am waiting for the cringe factor to come, but no, this is exactly what it claims to be – a tribute, not a piss-take.
Frontman Jack looks and sounds the part, as does Jess Furneaux as Poison Ivy. The Cramps line-up was constantly in transition throughout their career, so the line-up here of three women and two guys works well and is refreshing in equal measure.
Opening with the ultra-twangy guitars of “Sunglasses After Dark” and already Jack is leaning into the crowd, leering, sneering and being generally manic, bringing the audience into the act. Wearing a skin-tight all-in-one PVC catsuit, we know this is going to be a sweaty affair.
The band realise that the drum kit is still shouting out for the Bauhaus set and is hastily swapped for a Werewolves cover.
The hits and favourites start early with “What’s Inside a Girl?.” A pure mix of serious psychotic riffs and hilarious lyrics, which was The Cramps’ secret ingredient that lasted across all their albums and assured their enduring appeal.
Early tracks dominate the set, recreating those classic Songs the Lord Taught Us and Psychotic Jungle days, with the obvious inclusion of “I Was a Teenage Werewolf.”
A jump forward to 1989’s Stay Sick album changes the mood with a frantic version of “Creature from The Black Leather Lagoon.” The choice of songs is perfect, to be fair and varied. Not all choices are as ear-shattering, and some respite is found in “I can hardly stand it” from the legendary Off The Bone Collection from ’83. “New Kind of Kick” from that same album gets a welcome airing too.
I am wearing a 3D Off the Bone tee shirt tonight, and I am happy for that garment to be touched as Jack reaches out and strokes the front.
“Goo Goo Muck” gets an outing, the song that reignited interest in The Cramps and introduced them to a whole new audience via its inclusion in Tim Burton’s Wednesday series.
As the night draws to a close, we get four absolute classics in a row with “Can your Pussy do the Dog?,” “You Got Good Taste” (complete with Gucci Bag intro from Smell of Female), “Bikini Girls with Machine Guns” and a snarling “Human Fly.” A welcome late surprise comes in the form of Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy” (Gun Club being the band that for a while featured The Cramps’ Kid Congo Powers – still touring as we speak).
The band disappears, then re-appears for a photo opportunity, then treats us to one final classic, Thee most “Exalted Potentate of Love” from arguably the finest live album ever, Smell of Female.
Lux would have been wilder, this we know, often getting naked on stage and losing control completely, but for now Jack is the closest thing we have to our lost idol. For a night of Rocking good tunes and absolute fun, Teenage Werewolves deliver, and for fans of a certain age, that’s more than we can ever wish for.