Monday, May 26, 2008

RAMONES
Wow. You know you're struggling when you start tackling an old chestnut like a Ramones album. Haven't felt like tellin' nobody about nothin' of late. Inspiration just hasn't hit me. Perhaps it still hasn't. I'll know by the end of this entry... and probably hit "publish" either way. I was quite the Ramones fan as a teenager, but not a fanatic as such. My brother had all their early, essential albums when I was about 13: he purchased certain bands, I purchased others. I'll let it be known that I didn't actually own a single Ramones album 'til my 30s. It suddenly struck me one day that I wanted to hear "Blitzkrieg Bop", yet had no access to it. Never had any reason to jump up and demand to hear such things before; in my teens I need only visit the room down the hallway, and in my 20s... well, I felt like I'd heard the Ramones approximately 30,000 times as it was, so the urge never hit me. And then it did. And so here it is. The band make a whole lot more sense to me now than they did as a 13- or 14-year-old. As much as I liked their smart/dumb no-holds-barred rockin' jams, they still struck me as too goofy to claim as my own. I needed angst or weirdness, or, better yet, a combination of the two. Stuff like the Sex Pistols or Flipper or the Bad Brains made perfect sense; the Ramones were seen as kinda, umm, bubblegum. Doesn't mean I didn't dig 'em. When I rediscovered the band as a 30-ish gent, I told a punker friend all about just how great they were, how absurdly and courageously minimalist their entire schtick was, and how indeed I considered them to be the ultimate NYC minimal rock outfit, outstripping even the likes of Suicide or the Velvets. He thought I was full of shit, simply trying to rationalise why a 30-year-old guy who'd just spent the last 10 years lobotomising himself w/ a load of art-wank nonsense would get such a boner over a well-worn subject as the Ramones. Well, he probably had a point. There's no rationalisations necessary and I certainly don't feel that angst is a prerequisite for music worth giving a hoot about, so let's call it what it is. Ramones was released 32 years ago, and yet it sounds fresher and more alive than any "new rock" or nu-metal or "hardcore" outfit you could strap me down and force me to listen to. That ain't because great rock 'n' roll doesn't exist anymore - in fact a good buddy of mine and fellow boffin known for equally long and tedious tirades as myself has informed me that the US is currently undergoing its greatest revival of cool underground rock bands not seen since the glory days of '91-'94 (ask me for a list) - but because the Ramones birthed a whole new form of music. You can call it punk rock. I'll call it that, along w/ being a total de-/reconstruction of all great pop/rock that'd hit earth up until the year 1976. The Ramones have now been given full credit for all their glories (and sins): in print, film and never-ending MOJO articles. I'd be happy for them, if any of them were alive today (other than a couple of drummers), though having seen End Of The Century several times (a brilliantly depressing documentary of the truly peculiar individuals who made up the band), I think I can say that any credit they received didn't seem to make 'em happy, nor would it make them actually like each other anymore. But you've still got this: the first 6 Ramones album, the template for just about any rock band worth giving a hoot for post-1976: Ramones, Leave Home, Rocket To Russia, Road To Ruin, It's Alive and the much-maligned (and now reassessed) End Of The Century. I challenge anyone to give me a better rollcall of flat-out rock 'n' roll released in quick succession by any other group in history.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"the US is currently undergoing its greatest revival of cool underground rock bands not seen since the glory days of '91-'94 (ask me for a list)"

Why don't you put your money where your mouth is and actually show us a list of these "cool underground rock bands".

And we don't want to see No Age, Vampire Weeeknd or the Dirty Projectors on that list because they suck!

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it, what kind of putz would refer to '91 - '94 as "glory days" anyway? That was one of the WORST PERIODS FOR US UNDERGROUND MUSIC EVER.

Dave said...

The "list" in question was actually referring to the CURRENT crop of US bands, and I don't have that list, since it's my friend's, not mine, but he did allude to various bands linked up w/ labels such as Siltbreeze and S-S. MY list would not include the likes of Vampire Weekend, Dirty Projectors or No Age, but thank you for the suggestions.
What kind of putz would say that 1991-'94 was a "glory period" for u'ground US music? Me! You want suggestions? I'd throw in Cul de Sac, Supreme Dicks, Grifters, TFUL282, Royal Trux, Refrigerator (and other things on the Shrimper label), Dogbowl and Kramer and other good things on the Shimmy Disc label (which, to be honest, peaked in the 1988-'92 years then went downhill fast), Guided By Voices (don't dig their subsequent records at all, though their albums from that time are GREAT), Sebadoh (ditto; I HATE their subsequent material, but I can't knock the greatness of their earlier efforts), Sun City Girls, God Is My Co-Pilot, Cheater Slicks and other garage goodies, Labradford (1st LP is a classic), Slint, etc. During that period, most survivors from the '80s linked up to well-respected labels of their time such as SST, Touch & Go and Dischord totally blew, in my opinion, though there was a whole new, fresh and under-the-counter scene being birthed on labels such as Majora, Siltbreeze, Shrimper, etc. You think different? Really? Well, great, that's what this comments box is all about. Tell me about it then.

noisejoke said...

Um...Yes. Yea. Aye. Agreed. Resolved.
Glad you get the art thing - NY or otherwise. As much as Beefheart or Beatles. Like Big Star, etc, Pop but not pop. Bubblegum? Not Marketing-wise either going to or coming from consumer. But, sure, inspired by the melody and gleeful guitar based charge of Bay City Rollers, Sweet, even T-Rex. More important was the rock culture shaped by the radio of Brill Building and Spector, girl groups and doo-wop. Plenty of humor, and PLENTY of angst. Elegy, winsomeness, sadness, failure abounds. Besides unlike Beach Boys, not ONE Ramone surfed. You think they wore leather jackets cuz they were bikers? Why did Sid, the biggest loser, worship Dee Dee, the most beautiful of the beautiful losers?

Anonymous said...

I love early Ramones, and not-so-early, since my spot for'em exceeds those albums you mention (that means that I also dig "Too Tough to Die" and even "Animal Boy").
Don't think they ever made a Rock N' Roll album as perfect as "Never mind the Bollocks...", though.

Mrow said...

Anon: yeah you picked the wrong putz to mess with regarding early 90's US greatness. Mr. LexDev knows your worst periods, and really fucking well.

Mondo Barbara said...

your blog is an absolute piss-cutter mate. bloody great read.

Barry said...

Just as all of Western Philosophy is merely a series of footnotes to Plato, all music made after 1976 is merely a series of footnotes to The Ramones.