The Ramones Albums BEST To WORST!


It can be argued that if you have one Ramones album, you have them all.  Wrong!  Here's ten reasons why!  

1. Road To Ruin (1978)

The band's fourth album, Road To Ruin, is the precise moment where the band made the transition from gritty black-and-white to full-on technicolor.  The band had not only just made the best (and most commercial) album of their career, they'd also completed their transition from human to cartoon form.  What kid wouldn't have loved waking up on Saturday mornings to the Ramones rather than the Archies?  Song-for-song, this is the most consistent Ramones album and Ed Stasium's production is beefy, but unobtrusive.  This album didn't just show me how bloated Kiss had become and how lean and mean the new model of teenage rebellion was per the Ramones, it taught me and thousands of other kids that there was a band of dudes out there even more fucked up than we were out here in fly-over suburbia.  While the more idiotic purists call the album a sell-out, one need only ask them what the Ramones were supposed to do, keep making albums for the same 50,000 people?


2. Rocket To Russia (1977)

As much as I love the energy of the first album, the flat and lifeless mix has always been a bit of a bummer.  Rocket is the first album to deliver on all fronts - songs, performance, and PRODUCTION (mix included).  Mind you, Bongiovi and Erdelyi (Tommy Ramone) had already worked out all of the kinks on Leave Home and were now hitting on all sixes.  Had THIS been their first record, I honestly believe the band would have jettisoned into the stratosphere a la Nirvana circa Nevermind, but, as they say, timing is everything.  Still, the album broke into the Top 50 - one of only two Ramones albums to manage this feat (End Of The Century is the other).  In hindsight, though, how could it not?  "Rockaway Beach" is a definite SHOULD-BE #1 song of the '70s.  "Sheena", "Teenage Lobotomy", and their twisted take on the Surfaris' "Surfin' Bird" add to the treasure trove of pop grenades found herein.  That none were ginormous radio hits can mean only one thing: Sire's promotion at radio and retail left a LOT to be desired.

3. Leave Home (1977)

Oh, that all second albums could be this great, if for no other reason than to show the naysayers that the proverbial shot to the bow that their debut album had been was no fluke.  Except for a noticeably beefed-up production - the drums now sound like plastic buckets instead of cardboard boxes is an improvement - there is precious little to distinguish this album from the first, which is a good thing.  Song themes remain rooted in girls and glue and when some vocal harmonies creep into the proceedings ("Swallow My Pride" and "Oh Oh I Love Her So"), it's not seen as a travesty as much as an attempt to allow the songs to be themselves.  For as militant as the Ramones may have been in their execution, they were also learning ways to maximize the impact and, well, harmonies were now a weapon they used to drive their jackhammer choruses into our skulls.   Heck, we even forgive them their cover of oldies chestnut "Califoria Sun" because their version respectfully beats the crap out of the original.  A fun record.

4. Ramones (1976)

Despite the weak mix, the unabashed urgency of the band's performance is impossible to resist.  And when the songs are this stellar, how can the masses resist?.  Hell, these aren't songs, these are molotov cocktails lobbed at the establishment by a gang of hoodlums from New York that somehow conned their way into a legimiate record deal.  Each "cocktail" harder than the last and closer to the mark until, BAM!, they've got you.  "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Beat On The Brat" remains one of rock's better opening salvos of all-time, but what if Sire had released the midtempo "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" as the first single instead of "Blitzkrieg Bop"?  Still a relevatory record that will remind you why you fell in love with rock & roll in the first place.


5. Pleasant Dreams (1981)

After throwing everything they had at the wall over the course of five stellar albums and having nothing stick in the US, Pleasant Dreams could just as easily have been titled "What Have We Got To Do To Get You Fuckers To Buy Our Records?!".  The album that "should" have made them household names in the States, the Phil Spector-produced End Of The Century, had failed to hit the Top 40.  As if that weren't enough, Johnny had just stolen Joey's girl, resulting in the anthemic "The KKK Took My Baby Away", but fracturing the band's united front once and for all.  Despite all that bad juju, Pleasant Dreams actually manages to succeed in spite of itself.  Pity creeps into the mix for the first time, but its attached to a song ("This Business Is Killing Me") so joyously peppy (I shit you not) that you hope the pity party never ends.

6. Animal Boy (1986)

It took me a couple albums to realize the band I had always known as the Ramones was gone forever, but that this new version (Richie on drums, Joey's voice noticeably shot) wasn't completely without merit.  When you come to terms with the cheesy synths that show up on almost every song, the drum machines...you can finally enjoy the album for what it is...a total mess.  I mean, the band is trying so many different things in a valiant but desperate attempt to remain relevant.  It's almost like they...care.  Of course, the renamed "Bonzo Goes To Bitburg" (a protest song about Reagan's trip to a Nazi cemetery) is the first time I'd heard them that pissed.  Still, it feels tacked on to this album, having come out several months prior as an import single.  Who can resist the guttural howl of album-opener "Somebody Put Something In My Drink" or the ridiculously dumb "Apeman Hop"?  Considering all the bullshit faux-metal bands scoring top ten hits with overly schmaltzy power ballads, how did the Ramones missing doing the same with "She Belongs To Me"?  "Crummy Stuff" is a throwaway, but still one of my faves on a whole record full of unexpected surprises.

7. Too Tough To Die (1984)

While many hailed it as a comeback, side one sounds tired for the first six songs.  After that, a NY synth pop band led by Joey Ramone takes over for the better-than-they-have-any-right-to-be "Chasing The Night" and "Howling At The Moon".  Then the Ramones come back and phone in the rest of side two.

8. Subterranean Jungle (1983)

After all these years, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the decision to open the album with a cover - of "Little Bit O' Soul" no less.  My first thought at the time was that maybe they'd run out of gas.  Sadly. the rest of the album confirms it.  Aside from a pretty faithful (read "boring") cover of the Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today" and the reasonably catchy "Outsider", the material on this album is their weakest up to that point.


9. End Of The Century (1980)

How you feel about this album tends to depend on how you feel about Phil Spector.  I'm indifferent to his sonic charms so the string arrangements and other glitzy touches he adds throughout the album serve only to make light of the Ramones, it seems.  I mean, the band didn't even play on "Baby, I Love You".  Plus, the songs are weak.  A travesty on all fronts.

10. Halfway To Sanity (1987)

This is when the Ramones officially gave up on any commercial aspirations.  "I Wanna Live" is a mildly commercial track, "Bop Til You Drop" seems to be about the music biz, but leaves me confused.  "Weaselface", fun as it may be, is such a third-rate caricature of themselves that I am left speechless  The rest of the album, completely forgettable.

Everything the band recorded after "Halfway To Sanity" is non-essential.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

3 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah i saw the film 'End Of The Century' too. But i disagree with your choices and opinions here. They seem to be based on 'popular opinion' instead of individual opinion. As a true 'outsider', that kind of thing always bugs me. To just totally ignore 'Brain Drain' for example, is just indicative of your blindness and stupidity, imo!

    ReplyDelete
  3. All I can say is when Dee Dee quit, the quality of the band in general tanked. The songs he wrote and sold back to The Ramones after he left were among the few bright spots...

    Anything that was "wrong" with End Of The Century was due to Phil Spector not knowing how to produce a rock band like The Ramones. I also think Spector screwed them over -- sabotaging the tracks -- because they wouldn't hero-worship him in the studio, and because Spector was tetched in the head in the first place.

    Gabba Gabba Hey, You Pinheads!

    ReplyDelete

Instagram