1978, Music

Road to Ruin (1978) by Ramones

Someone on RYM observed that this title is prophetic. They are likely far from the first person as this record is considered by serious Ramones fans to be the beginning of the end, as far as I can tell. Well I’m not a serious fan of the Ramones, but I am a serious fan of punk, and I’m also a serious fan of variety, two things that are often at odds given how little some punk bands enjoy variety. (Ramones being the most famous, but far from the only one.)
This record is a mixed bag, even more than a regular Ramones record. Normally the problem is that not every two- or three-chord song works. This time the problem is that the Ramones have apparently discovered ambition.

One the one hand, the band sounds more competent than ever and at times they sound louder. A few of the songs have guitar solos! This was apparently controversial at the time, which is pretty laughable with hindsight. There are overdubs, too, which I think should be more controversial. But they sound more accomplished than ever which, for any band other than the Ramones – or a naive rock band – might be an improvement.

Some of the songs are among their best, including arguably their most famous song (now), “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Even some of the more clearly commercial songs stand out as among their better songs.

But there’s a lot of rough material here that’s pretty weak even by their standards. And the cover of “Needles and Pins”…well, I’m not Ramones purist but I would imagine that Ramones purist wanted to riot when they heard it.

I will never be a fan of this band. I acknowledge their importance in the history of music. But you’re way better off listening to a compilation of their best songs than the individual albums (aside from the debut, of course).

6/10

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