Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No. 33: Ramones

Band: The Ramones
Album: Ramones
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Punk's DIY ideology and stripped-down aesthetic are absolutely important to all music today and this record defined a lot of punk things. The sound was emblematic of the scene at the time, from the staccato vocal stylings to the quick down stroke guitar work. Outside of influence, the songs are pretty clever and referential of early rock and roll.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm not a huge punk rock guy. I like the harder metal before I like this type of repetitive stuff. A lot of the songs sound alike.
Best song: "Blitzkrieg Bop" is basically seminal.
Worst song: "I Don't Wanna Go Down to the Basement" kind of stinks.
Is it awesome?: If you like listening to repetitive punk rock, absolutely. I kid, but this record is incredibly important in the ways the Robert Johnson records are important.

Punk rock's roots are mainly secured in early rock and roll. Instead of basing everything on blues riffs, a lot of punk comes from a few selected power chords sped up. It's a nice template and one that has worked for countless bands, from Green Day to the Descendants to Generation X to the Offspring. The Ramones are responsible for that. The record was made for under $600 (even a small amount in 1976) and it contains zero guitar solos. The money quote comes from singer Joey Ramone:

"Our early songs came out of our real feelings of alienation, isolation, frustration -- the feelings everybody feels between seventeen and seventy-five."

It's easy to forget that now, as "Blitzkrieg Bop" is as popular at baseball games as it is in punk rock clubs. But, the Ramones were mildly dangerous and certainly not mainstream back when they came out.

Still, they were a pretty clever band ("Havana Affair" is a favorite of mine) and they were certainly innovative. Basically, they took the late 50s/early 60s rock template, sped it up and took out the blues riffs. Hell, they even covered "Let's Dance."

In my opinion, it gets real old, real quick. That's fine, though, as the records are fun and fun to pogo to. Punk, in general, is way important and influenced everyone from Steve Albini to Kurt Cobain to Jesse Camp to Kelly Clarkson. The Ramones, sound-wise, basically did it first.

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