I am a huge fan of the Ramones, so it seems about time I grace one of the most popular and widely accepted albums the group ever put out. Trying not to recycle the same thing that people have said for decades now, The Ramones ended up being a lot more influential than anyone ever gave them credit for. Rocket to Russia seemingly exists in this perfect 5 trifecta- right smack in the middle of their first five albums ever released, and almost universally considered their best five in some order. The thing that hurts Ramones fans for those who are outside their certain circle of acceptance is that all Ramones songs sound the same. Here I go on a bit of a tangent: first of all, you are wrong. Secondly, why does that matter?
The Ramones have absolutely built this sensational and amazing foundation on past-paced punk rock jams with bubbly chorus’ and gang vocals and chugging guitars and lyrics about High School. So their evolution is rather confined, the fact that people use that as a knack against them is absurd. Some artists are meant to evolve. Their very nature is an a forward evolution and change in styles, and this is why they have some many various fans and periods in their career that people love. They are chameleons in their sound. The Ramones are one-dimensional in that their original sound is rather intact and only marginally changed by the end of their career. But they are iconic now and were iconic then by a sound they knew they just about invented They were not the type of artists who needed to evolve to justify their relevance, nor to appease fans. They rocked, and they rocked until they all just about died. And I love it.
Rocket to Russia exists in a capsule that is untouched, so it is hard to fairly review it. I will say that the songs ARE recycled in some ways, the riffs barely interchangeable across whole albums and from one song to the next. Without an alert ear, Rocket to Russia can be heard as one 30+ minute tune.The two most entertaining tracks come in the form of the classicSheena is a Punk Rocker and the quite overlooked We’re a Happy Family. The allusions to the actual Ramones is alarmingly insightful, and the lyrics alone are just lovable. I Don’t Care wins for the best riff, and the shortest song on the album. These three songs gracefully sum up the Ramones almost entire trajectory- punk rock, happy families (ironically) and not giving a shit.
Rocket to Russia and the group are immortalized deities in rock music, and they did what they did so well, you can’t possibly hurt them or detract them for this stylistic abberation. On a purely aesthetic level, the Ramones wrote some of the most hook-friendly though aggreeably repetitive music in history. But for a band to write one original hook is a great accomplishment. So what if the Ramones wrote one historical hook and then repeated it in various undifferentiated forms. But lest we forget- they basically invented the fucking pop/punk hook.
My favorite Ramones song is I Wanna Be Sedated. A cliche choice, sure.Rockaway Beach begins in just about the same way, and when the song erupts, it is impossible to hear a difference in the instruments alone. But because they sound so similar and so many Ramones songs sound like so many others, I guess EVERY Ramones songs is my favorite. This is the essence of why the band has lasted and survived through time.