Monday, April 26, 2010

Review #100: The Ramones - Rocket to Russia (1977)


Year: 1977
Genre: Punk Rock
Label: Sire Records

31 Minutes (Medium-Length)
My Rating:

"Rocket to Russia" was the Ramones' third album. By the time this record came out in 1977, punk was at an all-time high. There were many, many punks and punk rock bands in both the U.S.A. and England, and it was becoming visible to the point that there was actually a large moral panic amongst the more conformist segments of the population and the police, who believed that punks were only no good and punks during this period were often beaten, arrested, and generally abused for no reason other than their clothes or the music they played. It was a hard time, but they lived for the music. This album is similar in style to the two albums before it, and it's the last Ramones studio record to feature Tommy Ramone, the original drummer (and the only still-living member of the original line-up!).

1. Cretin Hop
Well, it's a song about some dancing "cretins". Apparently a Cretin in the literal sense of the word is a person with a severe stunted growth disorder, often appearing to look very similar to a troll doll. Seriously. So if the Ramones were actually singing about a bunch of Cretins dancing around and stuff, then that's pretty cool. Anyways, the song is pretty good, but it's not the best of the bunch.

2. Rockaway Beach
Once again, speaking in real-life terms, Rockaway Beach is an actual beach in New York. The song was probably named after this beach. The song sounds very influenced by the Beach Boys or something like that. The Ramones sing about not wanting to hang out on the street because it's too hot and because "they blast out disco on the radio".

3. Here Today, Gone Tommorrow
They say that this is the first song that Joey Ramone wrote all by himself. It's a slower love song. Probably something you n' your fellow Ramones-lovin' lover could listen to on the radio (instead of blasting out disco) and kiss passionately to as the sun sets out on Rockaway Beach. Well, actually, maybe not, since it actually seems like it's supposed to be a song about breaking up. Like, you could listen to it, and then just turn off the radio when he starts talking about breaking up. But that's probably a bad idea. Heh-heh. I could swear a heard a phaser or something at one point in the song. Someone had to pay the price. It's a nice, sort of sad-but-also-happy riff.

4. Locket Love
It almost sounds like there's a little bit of acoustic guitar here. Either that or the distortion just isn't as high, here. I like the instrumental riffs inbetween the verses more than the verse riffs to be honest. Still, good, though. Lyrically, it's another stupid love song. It's good, though.

5. I Don't Care
The riff here is really bad-ass. Lyrically, it's very simple: "I don't care". Not caring. Dee-Dee provides strange falsetto backing vocals.

6. Sheena is a Punk Rocker
First we knew that Judy is a Punk, then Suzy is a Headbanger. Now, meet Sheena. She iz a punk rocker. This is a fun, fast, catchy song. I like the vocal melody during the chorus section.

7. We're a Happy Family
Definitely my favorite Ramones song I've ever heard. This song is about Johnny Ramone's dysfunctional family life during childhood, though the lyrics give a more humorous take on it all. The riff is awesome, the vocals are awesome, they all fit really well together, actually giving you that "happy family" feeling of total harmony with the music. A bunch of random sound clips start fading in as the sound slowly fades out, with random radio clippets and snippets of the band arguing with eachother playing until the song ends. End of Side 1.

8. Teenage Lobotomy
The lyrics are kind of nonsensical (unless there's something I don't know) in this one. It's pretty good.

9. Do You Wanna Dance
A cover of a 1958 pop song by Bobby Freeman translated into pop-punk song in which Joey asks some unnamed girl if she wants to dance. More Beach Boys-style "oooh, ooooh"s for background vocals. Probably 'cause the Beach Boys ALSO covered this song.

10. I Wanna Be Well
A slower song about being a burnout who gets high all the time. However, as already suggested by the happy melody, the Ramones sing, "my future's bleak -- ain't it neat??"... could be sarcasm, though. Little did this kid know he would eventually grow up to be a Ramone and be in a band called the Ramones which was really cool n' stuff.

11. I Can't Give You Anything
More acoustic guitar here -- I just love the sound of an acoustic guitar combined with the fury of an electric one, y'know. This song's about a girl who likes a boy, but doesn't realize that he's poor and can't buy anything for her.

12. Ramona
Yet another woman loved by the Ramones: meet RAMONA! A girl that always comes over to hang out with the Ramones and listen to loud music with them. Ramona was probably, like, some girl who was going to be the fifth female Ramone, but she didn't make the cut because she didn't play any instruments. And get this -- she's a spy for the B.B.I.!

13. Surfin' Bird
A cover of the classic rock song by the Trashmen (who could be considered one of the progenitors of punk rock themselves). However, the Ramones version takes the cake. It's about a fucking surfin' bird! YEAH! Don't tell me you haven't heard about the bird... what? You have? OH YIPPETY-YAY! Anyways, it's a very fun, cool song. Joey even goes on to imitate the little "Poppa-Oom-Mow-Mow" part halfways through the song.

14. Why is it Always This Way?
The riff is very upbeat and happy (I swear, the Ramones couldn't write a sad song), but the lyrics are very dark... it's about a girl who Joey knew, who committed suicide by drinking poison. The song just sorta fades out during the second chorus. Well, that's the end.

So, that's "Rocket to Russia". The actual album itself has a lot of neat cartoons in and on it, including, well, a guy riding a rocket to Russia! Coincidence or incidence? Who knows, man. As you already probably heard, after this one, Tommy was kicked out of the band and replaced by a new drummer named Marky Ramone -- both are still alive and well. This album takes a slight deviation from the straight-forward punk sound they pioneered, and shows their great interest in pop music, surf-rock, and garage rock. It's a pretty neat album, and if you like the Ramones or punk in general, then what are ya waiting for? Go listen to it.

Top 3 Favorites:
1. We're a Happy Family
2. Surfin' Bird
3. Locket Love

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