Thursday, August 22, 2002
Ramones End Of the Century
Too Tough to Die
The Best and Worst of the Late, Great Ramones
By the 1980, these inventors of punk-rock as we know and love it were bone-tired and desperate, a bad combination. Four classic records and a cult movie had led only to sub-par sales, and recognition and they were ready to try something new. Hence their slide into the crapper and their subsequent ressurection, as documented by these Rhino re-issues.
Their 1980 collaboration with Phil Spector was easily their worst record, and this CD sheds no new light on the subject. Tedious originals that were steeped in both resentment and reactionary politics, coupled with useless remakes and silly sequels, as well as Spector''s mushy production made End of the Century a rather deep pit to climb out of.
Which the Ramones did in fits and starts. The two follow-ups, loaded with outtakes and rarities, shed a little light on what went wrong for them back in the day. The Pleasant Dreams re-issue features three outtakes, "Sleeping Troubles," "Stares In This Town" and "Kicks To Try" that are vastly superior to at least half of what made it onto the original. They''re smarter and more adult ruminations on their loony takes on alienation and after the next disc, 1983''s Joan Jett-ish Subterranean Jungle, that thread reached full flower on the best of this set, 1984''s Too Tough to Die.
Angry, hard, wide-eyed angry, Too Tough was one of the best discs the Ramones ever cut. While the 2002 version features their Stones cover and lots of alternate takes, all of it is reveletory, especially DeeDee Ramone''s songs sung by the bassist himself, instead of the album versions sung by Joey Ramone. Unremittingly assaultive, they took on hardcore and whupped it, they made a synthy single that meant something, they aced rockabilly boogie like they were born to do it. Get the last three discs and ignore the Spector mess, just like you or your folks did 20 years ago.