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The Ramones

Finally! Glue Sniffing Loses It's Unfairly Gained Stigma!

Introduction
Ramones
Leave Home 
Rocket to Russia
Road To Ruin
It's Alive
End Of The Century
Pleasant Dreams
Subterranean Jungle
Too Tough To Die
Animal Boy
Halfway to Sanity
Brain Drain
Loco Live
Mondo Bizarro
Acid Eaters
Adios Amigos
We're Outta Here

The Lineup Card 1974-1996

Johnny Ramone (guitars)

Joey Ramone (vocals)

Dee Dee Ramone (bass) until 1988

Tommy Ramone (drums) until 1977

Marky Ramone (drums) 1977-1983, 1987-1996

Ritchie Ramone (drums) 1983-1987

C.J. Ramone (bass) 1988-1996

The first true punk rock band, or at least the first band that played punk rock that actually had the fortune to play punk rock when punk rock was called punk rock and not garage rock or just simply rock 'n' roll. So, technically, it's the first punk rock band, but I find that I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference in their 'punk rockiness' when placed next to The Stooges or The Troggs or fucking Gene Vincent or Jerry Lee Lewis, even. But since people want labels affixed to everything, and especially those that act as warning labels ('don't pour this on yourself, it's really hot!', 'don't let your kids buy this, they say fuck twice and talk about cumming in a girl's hair once and generally make a mess of the Western system of harmony!', or 'Not for use while asleep.'), I guess I'll take the bait and call this a punk band, too.

Well, and what a garage band they were, too. Four dark, bowl-headed Brooklyn white niggers wearing leather jackets and Coney Island Rules t-shirts with too much body oil and not enough English Grammar to make Debbie Harry wanna go to bed with you. And speaking of Ms. Debbie 'Playboy Bunny In 1970, so you can fill in the gaps and get my true, horribly scary age yourself' Harry, the Ramones were one of the originals in New Yak's legendarily scuzzy CBGB's alternative-folk coffee house located in the historic staggering grounds of a 75 year old Ripple wino named Paulie . The Ramones played regularly with such powerhouse burnemdowns as Patti Smith!(smash the machine and all its lousy toadies!) The Talking Heads! (feel the aggression!) and Television! (solo for 30 minutes, then come back with 'Not Fade Away' and a drum solo, then finish it off with 45 minutes of 'Dark Star', whydoncha!). So you can see that, at least in the wake of the blowup of the New York Dolls, there weren't too many folks with the same idea as Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and Omar, which was to play 4/4 eighth-note barre chords about as fast as humanly possible through a maxed out Marshall while the singer sanged all New Yawk-y over it all about such moving conceits as inexpensive forms of intoxication and the 7-11 store. Of course, fame took over (well, sort of), and as fame is wont to do, more or less destroyed the old Ramones after a few years, turned them from being stupid-but-genius into being stupid-but-also-dumb-too, and it took 'em a long while to get their spark even partially back and to remember that they  used to play punk rock on the Bowery, not heavy metal at the Boston Garden or hip hop in Queens.

Then they broke up and two of the founding members died unreasonably young in the past few years. Sad shit this life can be, but at least we have a good half-dozen or so Ramones albums that can, if you have a rock 'n' roll (NOT just 'rock'. That's not enough, don't you see?) bone in your body, jiggle you around like a Tijuana foam lizard on a stick on a bad day in a hurricaine. And the Ramones were blessed with a place in the universe. Or rather, we were.

Capn's Note: Contrary to what you might believe, I did NOT want to indicate that once women get to be of advanced age, they automatically become unattractive, unintelligent, or turn into bad people. Unless they're Debbie Harry, with her cigarette damaged face and her blimpy body that makes Stevie Nicks look like Jennifer Connelly, that is. Just to show that there's no ill-intent on my part, here's a picture of an old chick I think is really really attractive. Enjoy!

hotoldchick.jpg (23387 bytes)


Ramones - Sire 1976

Ever since I came back from Russia, I seem completely unable to get drunk any more, and not from lack of trying. Not that I'm a total juicer or anything, but the old dose of beers or whatever just does nothing to me now, at least when compared to before I went to where 1/2 liter bottles of beer regularly cost less than 30c apiece and pack more flavor and punch than a 6-pack of American Tap Water. See, so I'm sorta hurting for kicks, especially since I don't do real drugs any more and I won't see my wife for a good month and a half. I need highs. So much so I actually found myself leisurely sniffing on a jar of rubber cement my friends had left on their coffee table and enjoying it. Of course, what else could I think of once I realised what I'd been doing but 'Now I wanna sniff some glue, now I wanna have somethin' ta do-o', and proceed to commit genocide on millions more of my nerve cells?

What I'm getting at here is that everyone can relate to the superficially 'stupid' Ramones at some times or others in their lives. Oh, maybe not the one about not wanting to go down in the basement ('I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement') or the one about the Texas Chainsaw Massa-cree ('Chainsaw'), but these horror-movie interludes only further flesh out our four Ramones as the bunch of loser teenagers hooked on the late late movies and comic books that they are. They may or may not be exactly like you, but you know this is how they ARE, more or less, and you can relate to this kind of person because they're everywhere around you. And probably they're part of you, the guy flipping burgers on a Saturday night, the guy with the mouthy girlfriend, the guy who spends most of his time bored and aimless, for which the 'future' is not one of armageddon or bloody revolution or getting rich. These would be exciting, mysterious, dangerous. Nah. A Ramone sees his future as being exactly as it is now, except he's married to the loudmouth. He'll never be a guide for the CIA (like in the hilarious bullshiter spy story 'Havana Affair') or even a male whore (like on the true life true loser story '53rd and 3rd', about being the gigilo that never gets picked up. Talk about rejection...), but just the same guy getting older and older. And where the Ramones' genius comes in is making all of this loser stuff seem normal. They know how it is, and they're not going to make some chic ironic statement about it, they're just going to play a catchy bunch of major chords around it. While the Sex Pistols said 'fuck all of you' and the Clash said 'fuck them', the Ramones said 'fuck this'.

Numbers, numbers:  14 songs, 28 minutes, 3 instruments (if you count the drums...oh wait, there's an organ on 'Let's Dance'), probably 5 or 6 chords all together, each one a bar chord. Most of the songs follow this exact formula: 'onetwothreefour', verse-chorus-verse, where the chorus is the title of the song repeated a bunch of times. But if that sounds stupid or beneath you, you're not listening and should probably go and buy some lite-jazz records in penance. This isn't sloppy or unprofessional like you may think punk rock must be. It's Chuck Berry, louder and less wordy, and without the guitar solos. But just as good. My favorites are the opening Vacation classic 'Blitzkrieg Bop', the aforementioned 'Havana Affair' (with one hilarious 'Hooray...for the USA' from Joey, who doesn't really sound like he's kidding necessarily), 'Glue', and '53rd and 3rd' (especially the part where they start ripping out about the 'ray-zor blades!!!', which is pretty scary, really). But you know? Not a single track that I can't sing to you, and I don't really listen to this every day. Catchy, funny, focused, and ready to take over the world.

Capn's Final Word: Huff it into your collection this very afternoon, if you can pardon the pun.

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Mike     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: One of the best albums ever, no question, total ruling from beginning to end, all 29 minutes are total genius. My favorite number, for no reason at all, is "Chain Saw," but yours might be "53rd & 3rd" (I think it's Dee Dee singing that part about the razor blades). Anyway, this is the best Ramones album for me.

 


Leave Home - Sire 1977.

Not appreciably different from the first, but yey, not a shameless retread neither! Always could count on those early punk dudes not to totally rip you off on any of their albums. At least as long as you don't expect a Rick Wakeman album. Anyone expecting a Rick Wakeman album when they first pop the needle onto Leave Home deserves getting the shock of their natural lives, anyway. Dirty fascist cricket fans they are. And talking of cricket fans, The Ramones sure destroyed a few here and there to be able to get the massive sound they achieve on this here record. Guitars full on in both left AND right directions! Joey sings his tall, zitty heart out, too, and manages to hit a few more notes this time. Not that he didn't hit the notes on Ramones, but he only attempted two or three maximum, and there's plenty of notes out there just waiting to be sung, aren't there? Like the ones only dogs and dolphins can here, like how Pariah Carey sings 'em. Now THERE's talent! Writing a bunch of songs that equal or better the funzie old surf hit 'California Sun' ain't nothin' but doggie doo compared to that!

In fact, songwise, this thing's got Ramones up a tree panting for it's life. From the opening 'Gladta seeya Go Go Go Go Go!!!' to the ending 'You're Gonna Kill That Girl' and 'You Should Have Never Opened That Door', not one of these songs is in any way less perfect than the songs on their debut...perhaps a bit more surfy, perhaps more trebly and melodically-intent, a tad more doo-wop-y (but GOOD doo-wop, you see? Not that crap like Zappa always packs his albums with...fast, giddily joyous, tough doo wop!). The only ones of you that won't dig this as much or more than the first are either the true commitable punkers out there who always claim second albums are sellouts, or the ones who didn't like the first album, and therefore shouldn't invest in any more Ramones. Stupid hairshirts!

Capn's Final Word: Criminally funny, just as stripped and tuneful, and now it's time to spice it up just a little, huh?

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Sam     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Awesome album. Only have the first four Ramones records but this I think is the best of the lot.... there's just so much good stuff on here. started playing it again recently and just realised how much it fucking rocks. Best song for me is 'You Should Never have opened that Door', followed by Commando, the Oh OIh I Love Her So... aw heck the whole album's brilliant. Great stuff.

 


Rocket To Russia - Sire 1977.

One more good one from the Ru-Pauls, ever so slightly slower, ever so slightly less supergood, and maybe if you keep having sex over and over with the same hot chick (or guy! We've got folks who like them here too!) too many times in the same position you begin to get a bit chafed and would much rather smoke a doob and see what's on the TV than keep fucking like that. Do it too much more, or stupidly try to fix the situation by trying a new position after your member is already chafed beyond repair, and you're going to end up like the Ramones were in the early 80's. But we're getting ahead of ourselves! And getting head on ourselves! At least I am....moooooooooooaaaaannnnnnn! Splink!

Like I said, this one has more slow tunes, and someone listening to the draggy  'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow' for the first time might ask themselves if this band has begun to lose it, but I'd just take a hot poker and point out the first songs on here, 'Cretin Hop' ('There ain't no stoppin' the cretins from hoppin'!') or 'Rockaway Beach', which is my winner for best new song on here. The best song is still 'Sheena Is a Punk Rocker', for some reason reprised on this one, as if there weren't enough songs about running away from serial killers and having your heart broken and wanting to kill the bitch to go around. Repeating songs almost always ilicits an audible 'fucking cheap bastards' from me when I first read the song list for an album, and this time is no exception. I almost lowered this down to an A- for the offense, but that would take away from how much I want you to hear 'Teenage Lobotomy' ('DDT did a job on me!', hahahahaha!!!), the disfunctional anthem 'We're A Happy Family', or their first giggling dip into goth metal on 'I Don't Care'. The cover 'Do You Wanna Dance' sounds like it was born as a Ramones song, but I'd rather hear the boys try something that stretches 'em out a bit, like 'California Sun' from the last one, or the milk-spewing good girly panties of 'Surfin Bird', which ranks right up there with the best thing the Ramones ever put down. This must be the funniest Ramones album ever, or at least the most obviously humorous. Check out the back of the record jacket, with the pinhead riding the ICBM to Russia...that's some Cold War armageddon fun for ya!

For the first time, there really seem to be 'shining good songs' and 'ordinary Ramones songs' on Rocket to Russia, probably directly traceable to the amount of effort they put into writing each song. So, you may very well be underwhelmed by a few of these songs, and on those terms I probably should award this something like an A-, but....

Capn's Final Word: A

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Road To Ruin - Sire 1978

Like Claudia Schiffer, still recognizable as a hot chick, but yet a little advanced in age and overexposed to be on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue wearing only wet sand as a swimsuit to ceover her luscious, melon-like Germanic boobs. Just a bit more change, and I'm afraid a lot of these songs catch the Rabies sounding a tad old. Or at least a lot more like radio rock, at least as close as they can possibly get. Part of it must be the new drummer Marky, who has some much mondo-heavier forearms than did ol Thomas Q. Ramone. He ain't a dumb drummer, not at all, but he's not much of a punk guy, thus pushing the sound a lot more mainstream.

As sicky thumbs sticking out go, 'Don't Come Close' must be one of the most out-of-character songs the J's ever put to pen, and if you don't believe me, one listen to this almost Adult-Contemporary mayonaise sandwich'll get your head a-shakin' like it did me. I mean, it's a snappy country-something-or-other and all, but is it good? After what seems like 14 times through the chorus and I give up on it. 'Questioningly' is similarly wussed-down 'survivor rock', but it ducks it's little acoustic (acoustic!) bald ballad head and sneaks by unobtrusively. Only once through the ultimate-in-draggy 'I Just Wanna Have Something To Do' (rewriting old verse lines as new song titles? I forgave that when you were on your second album, but c'mon, you've grown outta that, haven't you?

Now for the improvements....the band still can play hard, but they play it a lot more metallic and less jokey this time around. Meaning 'I Don't Want You' snarls like a Norwegian shopowner, and reminds me of later-70's dulled-down Buzzcocks, which is not a bad deal, I'd say. That one's got a fairly lumpy tempo to it, but the mid-section good part ('I'm Against It', the boppy 'I Wanna Be Sedated', and the buzzsaw 'Go Mental', and later on, the fleet 'Bad Brain') packs the same amount of good cheer and butt punches as does anything on Rocket To Russia.  

As a whole, it goes to show that even the most unreconstructed of Noo Yak punkers can still absord influences from around them, but the main problem I see is that their influences seem to be 1979 FM radio. The other person living in their heads just wants to blast out cool rockers like 'Sedated' all day long, but we saw how that could get to be rough riding on Russia. This was a good attempt, and is pretty frigging far from being a dissapointing Ramones album, but it certainly seems a lot duller than the first three. Maybe it's that their songs are longer (some over 3 minutes!!! By a LOT!) and less funny, or their heaver, leaden sound, or the new drummer, or the silly 'lead guitar' parts that clutter the record, or what, but this one just doesn't 'click' for me regarldess of how many good songs are packed in the middle. Are they talented enough to involve influences that don't strike me as being dead wrong, expanding their sound without losing that essential Ramoney-ness? Ehyh....

Capn's Final Word: Another first: Glaringly good songs backed with failed experiments in late 70's arena rock. What's next, Ramones Come Alive? HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

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It's Alive! - Sire 1979

HAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH!

Yes, confound you Otis, it is time for Ramones Come Alive, but you wouldn't know the band was sloughing off it's punky brewsterity listening to THIS marathon hunk of Queens upside your head. THIS IS THE OLD RAMONES!!! Before they got all sensitive and stuff, and started singing songs that bring up visuals of Joey in a Hawaiian shirt with a Mai-Tai in one hand and a big hippie doobie in the other. From a 1977 New Year's Eve show, It's Alive is some untold number of sides filled with about 586 Ramones songs, including the forever-banned 'Carbona Not Glue' (because, paranoically enough, the dirty greed dogs at Carbona want to keep all the good high times to themselves. Can you imagine working in a glue factory? Like THAT isn't an easy place to lose your keys. What? Did you say something? *snoorrrrtttt!!!*). Joey is so in the Ramonezone that he often just starts showing off his ability to keep counting '1-2-3-4!' before Joey has finished flirting with the girls in the front of the audience. Maybe he's just trying to prove to everyone he's not too wasted to keep going. 'As long as I show them I can count to four, they'll let me stay on stage even though I see enormous plaid crustaceans chewing on my guitar strings and Joey's head has just turned into a gigantic green M&M.' They miss out some of their better songs (No 'Brat'?!?!?' Wha?), or maybe they just played them so quick they didn't register in my guestbook. It's possible...there's LOTS of songs here, perhaps too many if you're listening to this intently. So just don't listen intently! They're already breaking Punk Laws 1 (No live albums!!) and 2 (And especially no DOUBLE live albums!!!) pretty blatantly, so if you're a hardass you're probably pissed beyond repair at this record anyway. I'm just happy it exists, me.

The music, ehh. It's the Ramones. Only some of the best rock 'n' roll you'll ever heard played with so much ehuberance you'll probably want to go out and start your own band this very afternoon. All your favorites. Like a greatest hits, but better, 'cos you can hear that these guys really HAD it, in every way. They weren't some dumb joke, even though they reveled in dumb jokes. They weren't evil, even though they flirted with Naziism in a pretty stupid manner (probably stupid on purpose...isn't that satyrical genius? Okay, I'll stop.)  They were just a rock 'n' roll band.

Capn's Final Word: Blasts the cap better than listening to two of the preceding albums in a row. But not better than one in a row. Get it?

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End Of The Century - Sire 1980.

You remember rock 'n' roll radio, do ya? And you apparently remember Phil Spector. So does it seem a good idea to mix the Ramones with the Philthy Phun Phairy to you? If you aren't familiar with Spector's work, most of it resembles a 200 piece community orchestra thrown down a mine shaft and told to play the best of Sousa at top volume (though, to be fair, he also did the very dissimilar John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, but that must've been a good week or something.) It's the absolute antithesis of the Ramones' no-unnecessary-parts philosophy, and there were predeictable clashes between Artist and Creepy Wife-Beating Drug-Fiend Producer all throughout the making of this album (including, at least according to Mark Prindle, one occasion where Joey and Spector pulled guns on each other. Fun in the studio, ladies and gentlemen! Bring your own mike muffy and Desert Eagle .50 and have a great time for the whole family!! The Ramone family!) And you know what? I'm siding with the Stones. Fucking punks with no respect for black music pissing on their amps. Where are they 20 years later, huh? Certainly not touring with their proctologists, that's where!

No, wait, I mean I'm siding with the Ramones. One listen to the spayed and neutered Bob Barker of a riff that opens 'I'm Affected' and how the guitar sounds all choked and buried under all that echo smegma. That's not a good noise, gentlemen, and the nasty song that follows is probably one of the most violent sounding things this band ever produced...sludgy, massive, and not much fun. And the fucking about doesn't stop there. Just gander at 'Danny Says', which has nothing to rescue it from its limp Spectorist ballad hell. The Ramones did ballads before, but nothing that sounded quite so much like a bad day at Graceland '75 as this one. And, believe it or not, 'Baby I Love You' is much worse, simply a case of assjizz encased in a spiral record groove. And the lyrics have dropped a level or two across the board...tired old subjects like being tired of the road (I'll fucking say it again...it's YOUR choice to tour, you assholes!) and not liking the new music on the radio (that YOU fell all over yourselves to put on your last record, fucknuts!), and, well, dammit, there's like NO GOOD JOKES on here! Not even many jokes at all...they just sound bored and tapped out.

Alas, it does get less bad, and we're allowed another one of those great mid-album rolls like last time. 'Chinese Rock' is definitely one of the band's less touchy-feely classics, this time addressing itself at Dee Dee's unhinged drug addiction (in fact, weren't they all fucked up? Eh, Dee Dee looked the worst, though), and it rocks like the Heartbreakers (ala LAMF and Johnny 'Fucked Up' Thunders, that is, and not those of Hard Promises or Damn the Torpedoes) on their best night. The roll continues with the very new-style-Ramones 'Let's Go' and 'The Return of Jackie and Judy', kindof a 'Peggy Sue Got Married' or 'Bye Bye Johnny' story-continued kind of song that's as good as either of its forebears, minus a notch, maybe. The rest is more of the same as before, good if you're not taking notes about the matter, and Spector leaves his meddling to a minimum, thankfully. 'Rock 'n' Roll High School' swipes itelf almost note-for-note from 'Rockaway Beach', and it's not funny anymore.

Being that this album has really bad songs on it, and while a lot of the other songs are enjoyable in an olde Ramones way, I find I can only really remember 'Chinese Rock' as being worth shit on a shingle. And it's by far the only one that lodges in my head.

Capn's Final Word: If you want proof that punk rock was pretty far out and incomprehensible to a Sixties guru, this is a good place for proof. Otherwise, get a hits collection for 'Chinese Rock' and a few others.

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Pleasant Dreams - Sire 1981.

Now if old Ramones was brilliant because it was obvious and easy and tough and one had done it before, this one is stupid because it's obvious and easy and weak and sounds just like a million stupid New Wave bands with writers not 10% as talented as those the Ramones used to have. This is the Ramones reaching out to radio, more crassly and idiotically than could be believed. I, for the life of me, can't tell the difference between most of the songs, and this is the Ramones we're talking about here, who have about half the variety AC/DC is able to put into an average album. So these songs REALLY run into each other, again, like never before. If only the producer (another 60's guy, this one I've never heard of, named Graham Gouldman...search me!) hadn't sliced off all their balls and rendered this into a proto Blink 182, this might've been simply a better-produced End of the Century, but I actually think I prefer Spector's fucking around to this big-ol-spoonful of marshmallow. I mean 'Sitting In My Room' does not make me say, 'those fucking Green Day assholes ripped off the Ramones!', I say 'How awful that the Ramones were so bad in 1981 as to sound like Green Day'. AMG, paragons of brilliance that they are, somehow extract 'acid rock and heavy metal' from this collection of whitewash, but they must've let all that cash they earn go to their heads while their wives are all out screwing us in the WRC on our days off. Me? I hear Pop! Pop! Pop! And the lyrics are WORSE! Downright bathwater with little bits of yeast clumps floating in it, fighting it out with the pubes in an epic battle of the bathtub ring. 'She's a sensation, she looks so fine...gonna make her mine'? Oh no.

Luckily, (another love ballad, the doucheballs) '7-11' returns us to the suburban jungle where we first encountered our heroes, and the descent into the decadent underbelly of a mini-mall is about as witty as it gets.  This being pop punk, some of the hooks are pretty good and catchy ('This Business Is Killing Me' is one fine example), but I think you'll be flabbergasted as you how slight these tunes are. And you might be hoodwinked to find that all of the songs are pretty much the same tempo, and that Joey makes pretty stupid noises now instead of using cool words and a neat accent. And you'll be buttfucked by the fact that 'The KKK Took My Baby Away' rips off a Cheap Trick song I've never heard. *ducks flying bottles*

Capn's Final Word: For all of you kids out there who find MTV punk rock to be the effing coolest thing ever, go for it. For all of us who don't still wet our beds and feel funny 'down there' when Reading Rainbow reruns come on, this is pretty embarrassing.

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Subterranean Jungle - Sire 1983

The Ramones sad descent into irrelevancy continues without a misstep or even a little shimmy with Subterranean Jungle. This is the album during which Marky gets removed from the band for bending the elbow too many times (Not doing THAT, you 13 year old boy!), and though he 'drums' on here, it's not the same. Unless you count whacking an electric drum pad set on 'annoying reverbed clap' over and over and over ('I Need Your Love', and other such percussion monstrosities) to be good ol' drumming. It was obviously time for the guy to go,  and my money was on the whole crew to step into the unemplyment line. But, well, they didn't, and for this inconsequential record their disinterest shows like a grape stain on a wedding dress. And there's more covers than usual, never a good sign for anyone except for Elvis Presley.

But even the ol' Memphis Minnie himself couldn't perform the hell out of 'Outsider' like the Ramones do here, and for damn sure he couldn't write the damn thing. ( I hear Elvis was such a bad songwriter, he had problems inserting the correct name into 'Happy Birthday'. He usually just yelled out 'PRISCILLLAAAAA!!!', no matter who he was singing for, even if it was Col. Tom Parker's birthday, or Nixon's. Did you know Elvis used to stop speeders outside of Graceland and write the people tickets? Is it wrong to prefer my rock stars be breaking laws over enforcing them? And I prefer crunchy peanut butter, too.) And even all the full-bore straining on the barber chair of life for hours on end wouldn't result in the effortless speed thrash of  'Highest Trails Above' unless you're as talented as Johnny Ramone is with coming up with ONE good guitar figure every two or three years. But it's a good one, and I'm happy that there's still a pulse beating underneath the leather jackets and greasy stubble of these four chemical brothers.

I'm happy, because a lot of the rest of the album seems to confirm what I so eloquently stated before: These guys don't try very hard most of the time. Repeating the riff from 'Blitzkrieg Bop' for the nth time on 'Somebody Like Me' or completely yawning and smacking their way through bad covers of 'The Time Has Come Today' by whoever it was that used to rip off Eric Burdon's vocal style and 'Little Bit Of Soul' or otherwise just half-assing it, the Ramones are good for some very low level entertainment nowadays. Like the title of 'Every Time I Eat Vegetables, It Makes Me Think Of You'. Or this joke: 'Q: What's the difference between a bulimic's bachelor party and a normal one? A:.At the bulimic's party, the cake comes out of the girl.'

Capn's Final Word: A few signs of life, but hard to get along with. Too much obvious slop, and electronic drums? Gaw.

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Too Tough To Die - Sire 1984.

Well, is it Too Tough To Die, or Too Annoying To Break Up? Maybe neither. Johnny'd gotten into a bad fight, got his ass reamed, and needed brain surgery! That's what happens when bubblegum pop bands tangle with real punk bands: the bubblegum guitar player ends up on the O.R. table with tubes in his skull. He recovered and realised his band had wussed up, so he got ol' Tommy back behind the boards and a new drummer named Ritchie, who hit 'em harder and used 'em cymbals a lot more than Drunky did. And you know what, my babies? The album picks it up quite a bit! Not tempo-wise, but there's a lot cooler sort of Misfits-for-wimps aura here that replaces the lick-em lollipops and sad retreads of the Ramones 1980-83 work. And though I'de certainly pick the Misfits over this stuff any day, this is definitely the hardest candy to come from our favorite goofs in a lot of years. In fact, I don't remember them sounding this dark in a long time...lots of fuzzy guitars and pseudo-shimmy drumwork while Joey intones as a wizened elder at the gas station giving the timely warning to the kids on the way to the abandoned camp to 'STAY AWAYYYY!!!!'.

As for songs, the first two on the album plod a bit, but the instrumental bash 'Durango' lights the candle and 'Wart Hog' throws on a potent glass of hardcore, thus knocking over the candle and stting the drapes and couch on fire. And Dee Dee screaming all throughout just confuses the other partygoers, who run around in circles trying to escape the spreading blaze, but the smoke and heat of 'Danger Zone' are too much. Irresponsibly and without reason, 'Chasing The Night' attempts to extinguish the destructive inferno using a Casio keyboard, but the synth begins to melt from the uncontrolled silliness of 'Howling At The Moon' and I'm tired of this metaphor which I had hoped would dress up this review and failed. Sorry. We'll go back to usual plain dick and pussy jokes in the next review, I promise.

Anyway, this album does have a regular salsa bottle of different flavors, from the straight ahead hard rock (almost like, umm...a really lazy Boston comes to mind, or Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. maybe) on 'Daytime Dilemma' to the horror hardcore of the first half to the boring godawful pop shite of 'Chasing The Night' or 'Planet Earth 1988', which is so hideous I'd vaporize this planet if I were an alien visitor who would hear 'I pray for peace more than anything' backed by a nothing piano line, some over-drumming, and Joey playing the most rote one note riff in his repotiore. Oh, and 'No Go' is pop punk as fun as Rocket to Russia. So, despite the strong, confident moves in the right direction, there's still lots of stuff that wouldn't have made it in earlier days. The spark of genius flickers ever so dimly, but it is there. Or maybe it's just spit and sweat and cocaine. Sometimes it's hard to tell, you know.

Oh, and Dee Dee's hardcore 'Endless Vacation' seals it. He's my favorite member of the band, bruised voice and all.

Capn's Final Word: Ramones gassing it up again works wonders for the heavier songs, but the slower songs are even worse than the usual slop. Someday they'll get it right with the balance of bubblegum and aggression. That day was 1977. 

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Fred O'Riley     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: If you really pay any attention to the past albums, you can see that this album has all the best of the Ramones' stuff. And Chasing the Night isn't some half-a$$ed pop song. It was exactly what the Ramones were about: Having a great time and blowing people away with your sound.
 

Animal Boy - Sire 1986.

The first big surprise on here is 'She Belongs to Me', which, while not being in the same metropolitan area as the Dylan song, is a fiarly good little acoustic ballad thing ala the Goo Goo Dolls or Soul Ass-ylums early 90's hits. This is 1986...did Herr Ramones invent this kind of earnest massed-acoustic rough-hewn ballad? No, probably not. But it's still a head check to hear, anyway. Otherwise we have Still Pretty Much Too Tough To Die For Another 10-14 years, but with a top-heavy, sludgy production that gives new meaning to the phrase 'Turn down the fucking treble control!' (Which, unfortunately, usually means 'Vote Republican!'). And quite a few of them are cluttered up by badly mixed cheesesynths and....marimbas? If you say so, guys. But most of the songs are top notch for uncool, tired-out, replacement parts Ramones, and take what you can get. Lots of fun encased in these grooves, I say, and some of the silly production treatments even come across as charming. The lyrics aren't so bad either, if you can disinter them from underneath all that cymbal/reverb sediment that flies all around everything. The opening 'Someone Put Something In My Drink' is a laugh-a-minute if you're into statutory rape and can relate to this sort of song, Dee Dee's 'Eat That Rat' sounds like any random pissed-at-the-world 14 year old's new favorite song, both 'Freak Of Nature' and 'Animal Boy' feature Joey's new voice (I think it's Joey. It's not Dee Dee is it?) which is not much of a voice at all, sort of like if you dragged any random white trash 45-year old off the couch on a Sunday, gave him a mic and told him there was free Miller High Life for coming to the studio that day. Like that. Interesting, but not much. And why does Dee Dee's 'Something To Believe In' sound like something stolen from the Breakfast Club Original Soundtrack? Wonders never cease in this world, just like the marvel of a newborn baby, how tiny sparrows can migrate thousands of miles over the ocean and return to the same tree, particle physics, and how girl's pee.

Capn's Final Word: Bad sound can't keep the Ramones down. A fine group of party favors.

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Halfway To Sanity - Sire 1987.

I tire of reviewing albums, you know really get worn out, when a band continues mining the same vein in such a way that the results never exactly fail on a large scale, but keep getting tossed out year after year, loved by adoring fans, ignored by most half-sane people, and puzzled over by us critics. What makes this bunch of not-quite-fast-tempoed dozen Ramones songs so goshdarned different from those on the albums around them? Why would someone buy this album or let it languish on the racks? Forget all the mouth breathers in the audience, how do I fell about the record. Do I even like it, or am I just inundated by so much of this music that I become numbed, write a bunch of non-funny jokes and crap, slap a B on it, and be done with it? Well, I feel so much absolute nothing about Halfway to Sanity that I feel like putting about as much effort into reviewing it as the band put into writing it: Very little. The band is so set into it's formula by 1987 that, just 8 short years after they had the power to light the world ablaze with their short, catchy, intelligent, funny, fast, rebellious songs, that by now all they have left is a half remembered rebellion, a gig bag of power chords, a hired-gun drummer, and a well-worn sneer. Did anyone still see these guys as being punk rock by this time? I sure don't hear no punk rock coming off this record. I hear a bunch of rote sub-Danzig metal, each song clogging along, reaching its destination around 3-4 minutes, lots of guitar figures that sorta make me want to rock but not really, some decent, clean drumming, and Joey singing some cartoonish violence like he's some unholy cross between Tony Orlando and David Johansen on Quaaludes. Why this works at all is no mystery: It's familiar. Formulaic. Reliable. A no-brainer. Buy it, put it on once, dig the millionth recycle of the 'Blitzkrieg Bop' riff, go see the show, and forget it in the back of your record collection...not because it offended you out of sheer boredom (it's not) or somehow insulted your preconceptions (it sounds just like what you must think a mid-period Ramones album should sound like), but because it's as one dimensional and centerless as can be. And this is what I'm crying out for: a concept. Differentiation. Some chance-taking. Some brains. Not more of this chug chug you-don't-have-to-be-lonely my-baby-got-chopped-up-by-a-psycho foo. See here: Even the speed metal songs somehow come across uninspired (and with a title like 'I'm Not Jesus', you're flirting with Ozzy Osbourne-esque image copouts), and those are the interesting songs. Not bad, not even particularly hatable. Just plain.

Capn's Final Word: Hardcore fans will still love it. Everyone else should probably just follow their instincts. Me? I'm filing it in the back.

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Brain Drain - Sire 1989

So Marky dried out and came back, and instead of jettisoning Dee Dee because of his blasphemous white rap album like they should have, (Not that white rap is always necessarily bad. Dig most Beastie Boys albums, or umm, when Eminem decides he wants to rap instead of whine. But white rap by an aging Ramone? I think we can safely say....) they just go back to a very slightly faster tempo and lay down the exact same tracks they've been doing for the entire Reagan administration. And though Marky is still way sub-Ritchie in the skins department (in the skin department? I dunno. Ask the groupies hanging around the Bowery) the drums are jacked way up in the mix, thus scoring yet another production mistake on the Ramones rap sheet. But I don't mind, and in fact I like being inundated with all these high hats and tom tom rolls...makes me forget I'm listening to yet another Chicago Cubs season of a Ramones album. Like listen to the intro to 'All Screwed Up'...its like Marky's playing a Kalashnikov in a wind tunnel. Bad, yes, annoying probably, but it's also something to hook your ear to, beacue Gawd knows you are going to get much out of the 'riffs' or the 'lyrics'. Did you know Johnny eschewed practicing so he wouldn't screw up his punk non-technique (like Greg Ginn, for one example, did)? So there's no wonder the riffs are the same compost that they usually turn out to be.

Aww, I ragged on Dee Dee and now I feel guilty about it. Without Dee Dee there never would've been the part in '53rd and 3rd' about they 'rayzorrr blaydezzzz'! The Ramones would've been all about doo wop and silly riff songs, and never would've set foot in anything that resembled real problems like addiction and self destruction and violence that isn't funny. In other words, no Dee Dee, no Ramones. The thing is that he was bored silly and had wanted out for years. I sympathize. But, he left, it was all over, and there's no use in crying over the loss of a washed up junkie punk bassist when there's true tragedies like the fall TV schedule coming up every time you look around.

Brain Drain...hmm. I should mention some songs though I don't really see the point, unless it's to honor the departing Dee Dee. Okay, for him I will. 'Pet Sematary' is the theme song to the Stephen King movie you don't remember for the book you never actually read but skimmed through in class in 8th grade to show everyone that you weren't to be messed with because you read horror novels and just might be a little crazy. To me, the song is as poppy as a movie theater snack bar, and it embarrasses me. They sound like Alice Cooper's Friday the 13th song, or whoever had the misfortune to put their name on that 'Dream Warriors' song from the third Freddy movie. The guitars have about as much bite as a week-old opened can of Schlitz, the synths are too Debbie Gibson to be seen as being Tiffany, and the song goes nowhere. But let me ask you? When was the last Ramones song that went somewhere other than straight fucking ahead? 1980? 1979? Jesus. 'Learn To Listen' thankfully goes forward with some pep and has a neato solo if you can remember to listen for it. And a Christmas song that almost sounds like something from the ol' days. And others that certainly don't. You know...

Capn's Final Word: Another Ramones album! Slightly poppier! Certainly no good reason to use exclamation points!

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Loco Live - Sire 1991.

Live album from the early 90's, showing us a new Ramones bassist (C.J., who I've never met, and probably filled Dee Dee's shoes okay, but never could shoot up a gram of horse quite as fast at the Master could) and showing us that next to nothing has slowed down in the Ramones world. I suppose Joey could try to sound a little less like Gene Simmons and at least attempt to keep to the beat that Johnny is setting (how fast does that man want to get through the songs? I know faster is usually better, but I mean, the band can't keep up, retard!) I mean 'Blitzkrieg Bop' isn't even close to being performed with anything approaching conviction. Joey might enjoy his little vocal twists and stuff, but Mick Jagger he ain't (hell Chris Jagger he ain't) and for me it's saddening. Still it's all the songs you love and some you forgot. Done really fast and sloppy. Does that sound good to you or not? I'd prefer the RamonesMania collection if it were up to me.

Capn's Final Word: Close to this on the shelf you'll find an album called 'It's Alive!' Buy that one. If it's not there, go to another store. Keep trying until you find it.

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Mondo Bizarro - Radioactive 1992

The first one with CJ taking the room formerly vacated by Janet Leigh and wondering what the hole in the wall over there is, this one sounds more like a Ramones album than anything in a long time. Weird, huh? Brain Drain had the reunion of the 1978 band, who, after all that time, ended up sounding like 1984, and this album at least strikes me more like 1981 and it's got the mercenary player on it. But you know what else? It's also got good songs. Hoot'n'hollerin good songs like, well, the first two! Johnny plays the best riff to come out of his little mophead since, jeez, since Two Muffs To Dive?  In fact, the parts of the band fit together and fire on all cylinders for real this time, and add in some non-instrusive production and I'm having a ball. Sure, the diehards that loved Animal Boy and Halfway to Sanity to death will probably dismiss this one because of the lack of Dee Dee, but there's three Dee Dee songs, and isn't that a good thing? And though 'Poison Heart' is probably one of the most pop songs ever to jump from Dee Dee's swiss-cheese forearms, it's got a pretty slick hook on it, CJ does it justice vocal-wise, and I dig it. The Doors cover ('Take It As It Comes' from Doors. Which makes sense. They couldn't very well have taken something from the Waiting For The Sun pretension-fest, could they? Or play some long blues rock breakdown from LA Woman? I would pay a dollar to hear Johnny mash his way through a blues solo, though) is one of the better covers from these guys, and they pop the chorus loose just like the Jim Morrison instruction book says. Why couldn't they have put this much juice on all those other records I've just finished making it through? Is one bass player such a big deal? I guess it is, but don't tell 'em that, because before you know it they'll be demanding a solo and credits for 'bass pedals' on the album jacket.

So I've waffled but my happy button has settled on giving this one the nod to a B+. Prob...Jesus! A fucking spider just crawled up my back and decided to only really let me know about it when he hit the back of my neck! Fuck! I threw him across the room and never did actually see him, so he was an alleged spider. Man, to think it could've been a brown recluse or something. I almost oprhaned my baby girl writing you this review. And you know what:? I don't feel bad about that, particularly, because I enjoyed this Ramones record with not a lot of reservations. There's plenty of songs that could probably bebefit from some more time on the Riff Treadmill or the Hook Groin-master, or could stand a few more laps around the Humor Track before stepping into the Rehearsal Shower and being gawked at by the Gay Producer in the Studio Locker Room, but that's nothing. The fundamentals are here! Energy! Fun!

Oh there's that fucking insect. It's not a spider. It's some sort of weird Lower North America ass-bug, with this extension out his behind like a longbed trailer, but a flexible one. I bet he can get his shwerve on with an ass as mobile as that one. Probably has 30 or 40000 pupae waiting for him back at the nest, wondering if he'll bring them a present or not, or (I wish! I wish!) it'll be pizza night tonight. But our fearless father, tired out from along day coordinating 12+ pairs of complimentary legs, buggy briefcase in tow, took a wrong turn in the vicinty of MY ass, found himself way the hell up on my torso stimulating my neck fuzz, and now he's become my target. I'm the superior on the food chain, I have highly developed killer instincts based on millions of years of carnivorous evolution, and they're all coming into use. First I choose a weapon. Foot? No, too inexact. Fist? Too much firepower, too messy. May force me to get up and wash my hands afterwards, wasting precious bodily fluids. Ahh! A tool! I'm a tool user, see. A pen comes readily to hand. Aim, and....Squish!

Capn's Final Word: And you know what? In the time I wrote that, probably a good 10-12 minutes (it's late and my writing has become labored) I honestly liked every song that came on while playing Mondo Bizarro. And can't remember a damned one of them.

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Capn's Note: The final three Ramones records, Acid Eaters, Adios Amigos! and We're Outta Here! will come very soon.

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