THE RAMONES WILL always be classified as dumb, glue sniffin' delinquents of the doomed late '70s punk generation. But the four pinheads from Forest Hills, Queens should've rivaled '60s icons the Beach Boys in terms of sheer popularity, success and critical praise. Their simplistic, juvenile lyrics and three-chord hyper-speed guitar rhythms were just as melodic and catchy as the inane beach bunnies-and-surfers pop tunes Brian Wilson was churning out in sun-damaged California 15 years earlier.
This highly entertaining two-CD retrospective collects 58 of the Ramones' "greatest hits" without a trace of any rare, live or previously unreleased songs. A bummer for longtime fans, but quite a catch for the budding Ramones aficionado searching for a starting point toward one of the most prolific punk bands in the history of rock-and-roll. Not to deter rabid followers, the meticulous chroniclers at Rhino have included a colorful 80-page hardcover book chock full of scarce, never-before-seen photos and meritorious liner notes penned by Rolling Stone senior editor and certifiable Ramones zealot David Fricke.
All the group's most popular songs are here: "Blitzkrieg Bop," "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Rockaway Beach," "Beat on the Brat," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "Teenage Lobotomy" and "Rock'N'Roll High School." Disc one gathers together all of the band's late '70s hits -- all meat and not an ounce of filler among the 33 cretin-hopping cuts. The second disc emphasizes 25 lesser-known winners from 1981-95 at the height of the band's inner turmoil and Dee Dee's eventual departure in 1989. When the mop-topped bassist left (not unlike Ace Frehley's dismissal from Kiss) the heart and soul of the group left with him. Without Dee Dee (he wrote most of the best songs), the guts of the band were ripped apart and their whirling chainsaw sound never seemed as nihilistic, awe-inspiring or vibrant as before.