Monday, March 24, 2008

The Ramones – Brain Drain

In my opinion, this is one of the more powerful Ramones’ releases from the 80’s, with truly strong songs that actually shows growth in the band’s writing! They received some help along the way by such NY luminaries as Daniel Rey (who I understand plays a lot of the extra guitar work on their albums), Andy Shernoff and Ritchie Stotts.

Starting with “I Believe in Miracles”, Joey sounds like he does sincerely believes in the lyrics he sings and he is in great voice. A great, tough opening that still has a catchy chorus.

“Zero Zero UFO” is a bit obscure and while it rocks, it is not one of their best efforts. Their frustrated tough guy character is back in “Don’t’ Bust my Chops”, which I think may reflect Dee Dee’s feelings about the band at this time. Ritchie Stotts (Plasmatics) contributes to Dee Dee’s “Punishment Fits the Crime”, which Dee Dee sings and sounds a bit un-Ramones-like, and more standard rock (maybe like Stotts was doing in his solo band at the time) but is damn good stuff.

Joey stands out with his “All Screwed Up”, with its “baby baby’s” sprinkled liberally throughout. Their super charged version of “Palisades Park” came as a bit of a surprise to me and some of our friends, as our cover band, Donovan’s Fairies, came up with this same arrangement (actually saying “let’s do this Ramones-style”) and we know that people who knew the band had seen us play this prior to the recording of this album. Just kinda funny…

One of Dee Dee’s stand-out masterpieces (co-written by the aforementioned unsung NYC hero Rey) is the title song for Stephen King’s movie, “Pet Semetary”. Spooky sounding, but with a cool melody, perfect lyrics and it is still rockin’. This isn’t one of the amazingly genius punk rock tunes from the first few albums but is – dare I say it? – a somewhat mature song! Their video for this is pretty freakin’ terrific, as well, with dozens of NY scenester cameos!

The band goes into semi-hardcore territory for “Learn to Listen”, which means it isn’t one of my faves, though not bad. Joey’s songs from this period are fairly identifiable – there’s something in his sad romanticism, such as “Can’t Get You Outta My Mind” and “Come Back Baby”. They’re very Ramones-esque, though. This is contrasted by his contribution to their hard-core repertoire in “Ignorance is Bliss”, a collaboration with Shernoff.

Brain Drain closes with another classic, Joey’s “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”, which is one of the perfect r’n’r Xmas tunes of all time. Fun, funny and even touching – one of Joey’s best!

I think most Ramones fans have to have heard this album by now, but if not, it’s a damn fine one – just don’t be expecting ‘76-era Ramones. Regardless, it is one of their highlights of the 80’s.