The Ramones were formed by four unrelated Queens, New York misfits who couldn't play their instruments especially well and who all adopted the Ramone surname; let's meet the band, shall we? Johnny was the business guy who eventually became the band's taskmaster of a leader, and he was also a staunch Republican who couldn't play lead guitar but who managed to create the huge buzzsaw guitar sound that became the primary building block of punk rock. Tommy was originally the band's leader and producer, who only became the band's drummer supposedly because nobody else could reproduce the simple beats that he wanted for the band's sound (and he was the primary architect of the band's sound, despite being the least well-known original member, in part because he didn't stick around). The band's primary songwriters were impossibly tall, pale, and gawky lead singer Joey (who I can still see wrapped around the microphone stand like a praying mantis), the soul of the band whose poppier songs sometimes exuded a child-like innocence and who had an unshakable belief in the power of rock n' roll, and barely competent bass player Dee Dee, a true punk who was the band's "darker" songwriter (though as per usual that's an oversimplification as Dee Dee could be sweet and Joey dark) and resident troublemaker/heroin addict (Joey and later drummer Marky were merely drunks). That introduction out of the way, let's talk about this album, shall we? Often cited as the true birthplace of punk rock, Ramones has aged extremely well. However, much like the Sex Pistols Never Mind The Bollocks album, it’s difficult to rate Ramones without also considering its enormous influence on the punk explosion that soon followed - both The Sex Pistols and The Clash readily acknowledged a debt to the Ramones. Stripping rock n’ roll to its bare basics of three chords building up to a buzzsaw guitar roar, a pile-driving rhythm section traveling at the speed of light, and Joey Ramone’s funny, mindlessly simple vocals (which were often strangely intoned) about sniffing glue, beating on brats with baseball bats, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, prostitution, and tongue in cheek Nazi imagery (to cite just a few deliberately controversial examples), Ramones was unlike anything a startled rock world had ever seen in 1976. In truth, these New York outcasts were big fans of decidedly unpunk influences such as bubblegum pop, ‘60s girl groups, and surf music, and they simply blended these elements together and doubled the speed, creating something totally new in the process. Starting with a simple “hey ho, let’s go” chant and completing fourteen songs in 29 minutes, the band does away with any and all superfluous excesses (such as guitar solos) that get in the way of simply rocking out. As such, they were like a breath of fresh air to many people (primarily critics and musicians, as most of the public at large never did “get” the Ramones), and their full-throttle punk roar, which could also contain a sugary sweetness and be quite affecting ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), did much to breathe new life into a rock climate that was then dominated by the bloated excesses of “serious artists.” That said, there’s no getting around the fact that the Ramones were largely a one trick pony. Even though these songs are all very good and sometimes even great - the obvious standout being "Blitzkrieg Bop," their first and best song, which, while not a hit per se, later became a well-known radio and sports arena favorite - almost all of them surge forward excitedly in a similar fashion, often ending abruptly before the next one starts seemingly right where the last one left off. Yet after repeated plays the slightly differing strengths of these songs becomes apparent (a poppier chorus here, a heavier guitar sound there, a rare slower tempo, etc.). Besides, even though this sameness somewhat lessens the overall impact of the album, it doesn’t change the fact that Ramones features blazing performances of super catchy songs that consistently rock. As Joey Ramone himself said of his band’s contribution to rock n’ roll: “we gave it a good kick in the ass,” and when they gloriously end the album by shouting “today your love, tomorrow the world” you really feel like they (and you) can conquer the world. Which the Ramones pretty much did in their own way. P.S. This album's iconic cover showed everybody the basic uniform as taught in American Punk 101: weathered blue jeans (preferably ripped), sneakers, leather jackets, shades (optional), and absolutely no smiles allowed.
Leave Home (Sire ’77) Rating: A
Although most people didn’t know whether to take the band seriously or not (people either loved them or hated them), Ramones had an impact on the rock world that couldn’t be denied, and which couldn’t be quantified by mere album sales, which weren’t all that much. The follow up, Leave Home, was less earth shattering but just as satisfying. Again containing clever but twisted lyrics about shock treatment (“Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”), good boys (“Now I Wanna Be A Good Boy”), bad boys (“You’re Gonna Kill That Girl”), bad girls (“Suzy Is A Headbanger”), horror stories (“You Should Never Have Opened That Door”), and the difficulties of being a misfit outsider (“I don’t wanna be a pinhead no more, just met a nurse I could go for”), on Leave Home the band varies their admittedly narrow musical terrain somewhat while again writing catchy song after song. When all is said and done, the most important thing about the Ramones, especially on the early albums, is that they wrote truly memorable songs that really stick in your head. A far cry from the nihilistic angry punk that the The Clash and the Sex Pistols were producing at the time, Leave Home is a poppier sounding album than their full throttle debut, with a major doo-wop/girl group/Beach Boys influence going along with their more standard three cords and a pile of dust numbers. The production is improved as well, or at least it's a more produced record than Ramones (Tony Bongiovi and Ed Stasium were involved along with Erdelyi, whereas Craig Leon handled the debut), which along with It's Alive presents the Ramones at their rawest and most unfiltered. Again most of the songs are around 2 minutes long and deliver pure rock n' roll, with relentless power chords and driving beats carrying the day. The songwriting is again stellar and is more diverse than the debut, while Joey’s singing is far more expressive; mellower numbers like “I Remember You” and “What’s Your Game” will probably put a lump in the ol’ throat. Other poppy tracks with Beach Boys styled harmonies such as "Oh, Oh, I Love Her So" and "Swallow My Pride" reveal Joey to be the "sweeter songwriter" whose naive innocence can be quite affecting; his "You're Gonna Kill That Girl" is a teen drama worthy of Phil Spector (more about him later) except it also seriously rocks. For his part, Dee Dee again is primarily responsible for the "darker" or even "twisted" numbers like the tongue in cheek "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment" (a co-write with Johnny), the memorable freaks let's all unite anthem "Pinhead"(inspired by Todd Browning's unforgettable cult movie Freaks, it's "gabba gabba hey" catchphrase became a singular rallying cry among Ramones fans along with "hey ho, let's go!"), the simple but undeniably catchy "Now I Wanna Be A Good Boy" (not likely in Dee Dee's case!), and "You Never Should Have Opened That Door," another co-write with Johnny that recalls the previous album's "Chain Saw" and "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement." Joey and Dee Dee collaborate on "Glad To See You Go," written in "tribute" to Dee Dee's crazy ex-girlfriend Connie (one of the stars of Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain's entertaining oral history of punk, Please Kill Me, which is notable for its shocking tales of sex, drugs, and occasionally even rock n' roll), and "Suzy Is A Headbanger," another catchy number featuring a memorable heroine (see also "Judy Is A Punk," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," etc.), while an amped up cover of "California Sun" is also enjoyable. All in all, for comparison's sake you could argue that Leave Home lacks the landmark identity and overall aural impact of Ramones, but on a song-for-song basis it's at least as good (the songs from both albums were written at around the same time), and it's another essential album that’s a classic of its type. Note: Different versions of this album have different track listings, the result of "Carbona Not Glue" being pulled from the album to avoid controversy. "Babysitter" or in some cases the single version of "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker" has replaced it. Note #2: Both Ramones and Leave Home have been reissued with substantial bonus tracks, or you can pick them up on All The Stuff (And More) Volume One, which generously compiles both albums in their entirety on one cd, along with two previously unreleased tracks and two live songs. Granted, due to their limited range the band is perhaps better served in small dosages, but a bargain is a bargain, and no serious fan or student of rock n’ roll should be without these albums, regardless of how you obtain them.
Rocket To Russia (Sire ’77) Rating: A
Long championed by rock critics (especially New York critics) and the punk set while being dismissed by just about everybody else as being one-dimensional cartoon characters (the band therefore becoming both overrated and underrated), this album is regarded by many as the Ramones’ peak. Their minimalist sound is still “stripped down to the bone,” but they’ve expanded it a bit while writing some of their catchiest melodies. Instant classics such as “Rockaway Beach” and “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” sound like The Beach Boys on speed, and by all rights should’ve been big summertime hits. Alas, they were only minor hits, as much to the band and their record company's dismay they were stuck being a critically acclaimed cult band, meaning that weren't making any real money. These two songs fit right in with suped up surf covers of Bobby Freeman's (via The Beach Boys’) “Do You Wanna Dance?” and The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” (Peter Griffin’s favorite song!), and the band also tries out a sad ballad on “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow,” which features another affecting vocal by Joey (who I've come to appreciate more and more as a singer over the years) plus a jangly guitar solo (a guitar solo?!!) and a running time that almost breaks the three minute barrier, heretofore unheard of for a Ramones song! Elsewhere, the twisted chants of “We’re A Happy Family” hit hard while also hitting the funny bone, while “Cretin Hop” and “Teenage Lobotomy” further attest to the band’s warped sense of humor by delivering the type of dumb fun that only the Ramones could deliver. All in all, any complaints that I have about the album - some songs are overly simple and repetitive and maybe there are one or two lesser Ramones-by-numbers efforts that all of their albums seem to have - are minor, because both Joey and Dee Dee were at the top of their songwriting game, and the band plays these songs like they were meant to be played. Heck, even slower numbers like "I Wanna Be Well” and “Ramona” stick, and I'd nominate "Locket Love" and "Why Is It Always This Way" in the "overlooked gems" department. Granted, perhaps the third time around the Ramones’ schtick is starting to sound a little less fresh to me, but Rocket To Russia was another vintage Ramones album that contains several of their signature songs, some of which would remain in their concert repertoire ‘till the very end.
Road To Ruin (Sire ’78) Rating: A-
This was the first album to feature new drummer Marky Ramone (formerly of Dust and Richard Hell & The Voidoids), who fit right in and gave the band a heavier bottom end, while Tommy stuck around as co-producer and still shaped the overall sound of the album. Tommy and co-producer Ed Stasium also played lead guitar on several tracks, as Road To Ruin was the first Ramones album to feature extensive acoustic and lead guitar playing (neither Johnny's forte). What also made this album stand out was that certain tracks were longer and obviously more commercial than in the past, as the band's search for the elusive hit single continued (unsuccessfully, alas). The album also sees the band in a more serious, pensive, and at times mean-spirited (i.e. "I Don't Want You") mood, likely because they were disillusioned because they still hadn't found that elusive hit single. Several songs are slower and feature a more metallic stomp, the best of these probably being the album opener "I Just Want To Have Something To Do." Other highlights include "Don’t Come Close," a Byrdsy gem that's simply a great jangle pop song (it even features a guitar solo!), a surprisingly straightforward and affecting cover of The Searchers’ “Needles And Pins” that's the best version of the song as far as I'm concerned, the ridiculously catchy bubblegum pop of “I Wanna Be Sedated” (probably their most famous song along with "Blitzkreig Bop"; if you haven't ever sang along to this song at some point in your life then shame on you!), and "She's The One," a rare upbeat track that blazes along but of course manages to be catchy as all get out as well. Actually, perhaps my favorite song here is "Questioningly," a sad breakup ballad with lovely harmonized guitars and a vocal from Joey that never fails to make my tear ducts well up...excuse me while I compose myself, because this song shows that the band were more than mere "1-2-3-4" shouting cartoon characters, but were capable of real depth. Of course, not all Ramones fans appreciated such "progress," but then again punk rock fans are pretty much the most close minded fans out there, many forgetting that the "anything goes" ethos of punk is supposed to be all about trying new things rather than blazing away on three primitive power chords each time out. But I digress, back to this album, which I find less consistent than its predecessors, as some simple, overly repetitive songs amount to listenable filler. Fortunately, even the lesser songs here (“Bad Brain” for example) aren't bad or anything, and elsewhere the lead and harmonized guitars elevate songs that would otherwise be forgettable, such as "Go Mental," another song about insanity, a main theme of Rocket To Russia, and "It's A Long Way Back." So, as you can see, there's a clearer division between the top-tier Ramones tracks and the rest of the album this time out, and as such I'd rank Road To Ruin a slight notch below the first three albums. Still, the album contains several all-time classic Ramones songs and was another stellar effort that I’ve grown to greatly appreciate over the years. Note: Like the first two albums, Rocket To Russia and Road To Ruin have been reissued with bonus tracks, and have also been compiled together in their entirety with some previously unreleased bonus tracks on All The Stuff (And More), Volume Two.
It’s Alive (Sire ’79) Rating: A
Recorded in 1977 but not released until 1979 (and foolishly not released in the U.S. until the '90s), It's Alive is one of the great live albums, even if much of it (all but the drums) was touched up in the studio. A boisterous crowd, a stack of great tunes played much faster than the already fast studio versions, and a track listing containing only songs from their first three classic albums makes this live album hard to pass up. The band always played faster live, and nobody was playing this fast back then, before the many hardcore bands who lacked their melodic knack came to be. Blazing through 28 songs in about 55 minutes, It’s Alive shows our favorite punk rockers in peak form, wasting no time and simply getting down to business as one of the great good time bands of all time. I can still picture them: Joey wrapped around the mike and sounding damn good, Johnny's guitar slung low and driving the rhythm along, Dee Dee barking out "1-2-3-4" before seemingly every song, and Tommy steady as usual. This is simply no-frills punk rock played with a pure rock n' roll spirit (there's no blues influence at all). Simply put, with one listen to It's Alive it's easy to see why so many fans and critics came to swear by these guys. Sure, they stuck around well past their prime (more about that later), but so have The Rolling Stones, and that only mildly dampens my appreciation of both band's overall greatness. This album is the Ramones' Live At Leeds, their Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!, etc.; this is how I want to remember these guys.
End Of The Century (Sire ’80) Rating: B
By now the boys and Sire were frustrated, so their ongoing search for that elusive hit single led to their hiring of a well-known, indeed legendary producer, Phil Spector. Granted, Spector had produced stripped down rock n' roll with John Lennon, but on the whole his style was the antithesis of the Ramones, so the resulting mismatch was predictable. Some of the Ramones, notably Johnny (who was asserting himself as the band's leader at around this time), were none to eager to work with Spector in the first place (hadn't it been almost a decade since Phil himelf had a big hit?) but simply went along with it because they were willing to try anything at this point, even ditching their leather jacket uniforms on the album's cover. Spector's insane antics during the recording sessions, including pulling a gun on the band, have become the stuff of legend (and are hilariously recounted in the excellent documentary about the Ramones, also titled End Of The Century), but this resulting album is not legendary, alas, and in retrospect it was the album on which the band began their inexorable slide. Fact is, whether with Craig Leon, Tony Bongiovi, or Ed Stasium, the best producer for the Ramones has always been Tommy Erdelyi, a.k.a. Tommy Ramone, and they were never as good without him. As for Spector, he loved Joey as a singer but he seemingly didn't have much use for the rest of the band, who he treated merely as Joey's backing band. Indeed, this album's cover of The Ronettes' "Baby, I Love You" doesn't even feature any of the other band members, and though it became the band's biggest U.K. hit ever, it's not the Ramones, and it's considerably inferior to the Ronettes original anyway. Fortunately, there are several good songs on this album, even if there’s only one song here that I consider to be an all-time Ramones classic. The album begins with said classic, "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio," whose brighter sound is definitely different, with a pop sheen that's obviously Spector's doing. Marky's beats are pumped up, as they often are throughout this album (among the instrumentalists he's the only one who truly shines on this album), and as an attempt at a fist-pumping anthem it's sincere, catchy, and rocking on the whole. The bass-heavy "I'm Affected" is surprisingly menacing and intense, recalling The Stooges, while the less impressive "Let's Go" likewise has a harsh, darker sound. By contrast, "Danny Says" (the Danny being manager Danny Fields) is a lovely Beach Boys influenced ballad (the mature mini-pop symphony era Beach Boys, not the surf band era that had mostly influenced their previous stuff) that builds nicely, and the band also includes a version of "Chinese Rock," a co-write between Dee Dee and Richard Hell that Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers had already recorded (albeit as "Chinese Rocks"). Frankly, I prefer The Heartbreakers' decidedly more energetic and punkish take, but this slicked up version is catchy as well, as are underrated album tracks like "The Return Of Jackie and Judy" (a sequel to "Judy Is A Punk") and "I Can't Make It On Time," the latter of which has one of Joey's most affecting vocals. Unfortunately, the majority of side two (what used to be side two, anyway) is unremarkable ("All The Way" is the best of the rest), though a major exception is "Rock 'n' Roll High School," which had previously been used in the campy (and let's face it, amateurish) teen flick of the same name, which the Ramones had starred in (another movie track, "I Want You Around," is one of several bonus tracks added to the reissue of this album). This Spector-ized version is different, however, but I can easily give it the thumbs up due to its high catchy quotient and enjoyable sun drenched harmonies (like so many previous successes, this one is influenced by early Beach Boys). On the whole, however, when one considers the concessions the band made to their sound - less guitars and more strings is never a good idea where this band is concerned - how expensive it was to make this record, and the minimal overall impact it had on the band's success (it sold well compared to past efforts but it also garnered the worst reviews of the band's career), I doubt that any band member other than Joey felt like it was worth it to mess with what had been (artistically speaking) a foolproof formula.
Pleasant Dreams (Sire ’81) Rating: B+
This time the big bad record company brought in Graham Gouldman, another "name" producer known for writing big '60s hits for The Yardbirds ("For Your Love," "Heart Full Of Soul"), The Hollies ("Bus Stop"), and others, as well as for being a key member of underrated, eccentric '70s popsters 10cc (best known for the hits "I'm Not In Love" and "The Things We Do For Love"). Around this time Johnny also stole Joey's girlfriend (they later married) and their relationship was never repaired; I don't know about you, but when I found out that Johnny and Joey basically hated each other it seriously bummed me out. (Though as an aside, one of the most moving moments in the End Of The Century documentary was when Johnny admitted that he was upset when Joey died, because they both loved the Ramones and at least shared that bond.) Anyway, Gouldman's production is no more appropriate than Spector's, as more than once during this album I find myself asking "where's the power?" or worse yet, "where's the balls?" That said, I suppose that's fitting to an extent since, aside from a couple of heavier efforts ("We Want The Airwaves," "This Business Is Killing Me"), Pleasant Dreams is the band's poppiest album to date. As such, I'd say that it's a very good effort in that vein, as the album is consistently enjoyable provided you can forget that for the second album in a row the Ramones veered away from what had been their signature style because they were obviously searching (still unsuccessfully) for that big hit that would finally bring them fortune (due to their singular style they were already pretty famous). Also, remember, by now it was clear that the impact of punk, which critics had loved so much and which was supposed to change everything, really hadn't changed all that much where the mainstream was concerned, as the so-called "corporate" likes of Journey and Foreigner were burning up the charts, so such a "sell out" anti-punk record really shouldn't be counted against the band too much. Besides, I like the majority of these songs, which are notable for often (5 times!) exceeding the 3-minute mark, for containing more lead guitar likely not played by Johnny, and for often accentuating the band's harmonies (while also employing guest vocalists such as Gouldman himself and Sparks' Russell Mael). Highlights include "We Want The Airwaves," on which the band brazenly states their commercial intentions with a hard hitting song that's reminiscent of "I'm Affected," "The KKK Took My Baby Away" and "Don't Go," a pair of catchy Joey tracks (he's the dominant songwriter this time out, writing 7 songs to Dee Dee's 5 and delivering most of the highlights) that likely allude to the "Johnny stole my girlfriend" situation, "You Sound Like You're Sick," a catchy number that highlights Joey's uniquely idiosyncratic vocal stylings, "It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)," with its odd beats and easily relatable lyrics, "She's A Sensation," arguably the purest pop song here, "7-11," the mellowest track which again recalls girl groups and even features (gasp!) strings, "Come On Now," another track that I'll simply describe as "catchy" before moving on, and "Sitting In My Room," which delivers yet another catchy melody and more easily relatable "us against them" lyrics. I guess I just named most of the album as highlights, and really, the songs here are consistently well crafted, even if the band sounds a bit neutered at times and again like the last album there are few if any songs here that I would put on a "best of the Ramones" playlist ("The KKK Took My Baby Away" is probably the album’s best-known and arguably best song). What you think of this album will likely depend on how much you appreciate the Ramones focusing on their bubblegum pop side at the expense of their punk side. Personally, although I disliked it at first, over time I’ve found Pleasant Dreams to be a real grower of an album that I now consider to be one of the band's most underrated releases. The cover art sucks, though.
Subterranean Jungle (Sire ’82) Rating: B
This album is notable because it features a whopping three cover songs, Dee Dee reverses the last album by dominating the songwriting credits rather than Joey, and it's the third album in a row where many consider the production to be a real problem. Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin handled production duties this time, and the album has more of a hard rock sound, which is fine by me, not being a punk purist by any means. What isn't fine is the dated '80s drum sound, which frankly stinks, though perhaps Marky is partly to blame given that towards the end of these sessions he was kicked out of the band. Indeed, Billy Rogers plays drums on their (so-so) cover of The Chambers' Brothers '60s psychedelic soul classic "Time Has Come Today" (the band's longest song to date at 4:25), while underrated ex-Heartbreakers axe slinger Walter Lure helps out on lead guitar duties. As for the other two covers, the inclusion of which indicates that their songwriting inspiration wasn't at its highest (the album in general contains too many recycled riffs and melodies), I could live without their cover of The Music Explosion's '60s garage classic "Little Bit O' Soul" (I far prefer the originals of this and "Time Has Come Today," on which Joey sounds oddly like Gene Simmons or maybe Mark Farner!), but I love their energetic cover of The Boyfriends’ "I Need Your Love." Man, I absolutely adore the infectious shout along chorus on this one, which I consider to be this album's standout track (heck it’s one of my favorite Ramones songs ever). Then again, given this album's less than stellar reputation among most Ramones fans, I found myself surprised that I like quite a few other songs as well, most of them, really, though the track that many seem to consider an album highlight, "Psycho Therapy," I find to be one of the least impressive songs here. I prefer Dee Dee's catchy, singable "Outsider," on which he actually sings a verse and which is fitting since the Ramones were THE band for a small group of likeminded outsiders, Joey's bitter, angry, hard rocking kiss off "What'd Ya Do?," which again can be seen as alluding to the "Johnny stole my girlfriend" situation, Joey's "My-My Kind Of A Girl," which again recalls '60s jangle pop and girl groups while lyrically paying tribute to Jimmy Two Times, and Dee Dee's fast paced but melodic "In The Park." Dee Dee's "Somebody Like Me" and "Time Bomb" (on which he sings lead) are also simple but fun, and Joey's "Every Time I Eat Vegetables It Makes Me Think Of You" is a great song title and a good song. So, despite its flawed sound and merely good but not great songwriting, I find Subterranean Jungle to be quite enjoyable, even if it was perhaps their first album that was "just another Ramones album."
Too Tough To Die (Sire ’84) Rating: B
Tommy Erdelyi and Ed Stasium are back overseeing the recording, rectifying the band's recent production problems, but unfortunately they couldn't do anything about the hit-and-miss songwriting. Stuck in a songwriting slump, Joey only contributes three songs, two of which were co-writes, while Dee Dee picks up the slack by writing or co-writing nine songs, often with Johnny who accumulates his most writing credits to date (five). Soundwise, fast-paced punk rock is again the order of the day, as evidenced by the return of several "1-2-3-4" song intros. Obviously influenced by the hardcore bands that they themselves had inspired, Joey often adopts a harsher, tougher, and frankly less appealing vocal style, and Dee Dee also sings lead on two terrible tracks ("Wart Hog," "Endless Vacation"), quite awfully I must say, so badly in fact that it almost makes me reconsider whether I really liked Dee Dee's lead vocal contributions to the last album. "Danger Zone" and "Humankind," the latter written by new drummer Richie (who stayed for four years before Marky rejoined), are filler tracks as well, and Johnny's brief, driving instrumental "Durango 95" could've been a good proper song but unfortunately never really builds on its potential. Fortunately, there are several stronger songs, such as "I'm Not Afraid Of Life," a tough mid-tempo dirge that showed the band's more serious mindset this time out and which recalls the New York Dolls (as does the less impressive leadoff track, "Mama's Boy"). The rocking title track is more melodic and is oddly poignant listening to it now, what with Joey (cancer), Dee Dee (drugs), and Johnny (cancer) all dying one after another in recent years (hard to believe but true). Oddly enough given the band's re-emphasis on punk rock, the best songs here are atypical, poppy tracks that are grouped together in the middle of the album and which all exceed four minutes, quite unpunk I must say. "Chasing The Night" and "Howling At The Moon (Sha-La-La)" deliver melodic, hooky new wave pop punk (with keyboards and synthesizers, egads!), while "Daytime Delimma (Dangers Of Love)," a co-write by Joey with band associate, lead guitar assister, and later producer Daniel Rey, is an anthemic highlight with another first-rate Joey vocal (which is lacking on too many of the album's other lackluster attempts). "Planet Earth 1988" features hard rock verses and a more melodic chorus, plus impressive piano and lead guitar (likely Lure again), while "No Go" ends the album with a catchy, fun pop punker in the band's classic style. All in all, despite many calling this a "comeback album," I don't find it to be obviously better than any of their previous three albums, as by now even the band's so called "better" albums were but pale echoes of past glories, even if they still echoed past glories in an enjoyable manner for the most part. Of course, the band continued for many years after this, even after Dee Dee left in 1989 for an absurd solo career (though he would continue to write for the band), replaced by the much younger C.J. They never stopped releasing albums and touring, all while Joey and Johnny never started talking to each other, before improbably appearing at Lollapalooza and calling it quits in 1996, finally beaten down by their personal problems and lack of commercial success. Perhaps I'll review some of their subsequent albums at a later date, but probably not, for the albums already covered on this page are the reason that this band is justifiably legendary, one trick pony or not. Those who want to hear only the best of the rest are advised to check out the band's excellent 2-cd career encompassing retrospective Hey! Ho! Let's Go: The Anthology, which includes most of the band's best songs, including non-album essentials such as "Carbona Not Glue" and later notables like "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)."
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